Drivers unsure if Highway Code changes have made roads safer after major rules launched

Drivers unsure if Highway Code changes have made roads safer after major rules launched

Highway Code changes have now been enshrined for two years

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 29/01/2024

- 10:50

One expert said it was 'concerning' that drivers thought pedestrian safer had not improved in recent years

More than half of drivers still feel unsure whether changes to the Highway Code - which have now been in effect for two years - have made the roads safer for pedestrians.

Two years ago, the Government rolled out a number of major Highway Code changes in a bid to make streets safer for all road users.

It created a “hierarchy of road users” that aimed to place road users that are most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy.

Those who cause the greatest level of harm such as large goods vehicles, vans, minibuses, cars, taxis and motorcycles, now have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others.

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Pedestrians crossing a busy road with cars

The RAC has called on the Government to reaffirm the safety change message to all road users


Another key change was to clarify to all road users that when pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way.

Data from the Government’s road casualty statistics found that 30 per cent of pedestrian fatalities and 39 per cent of serious injuries occur at junctions.

New research from the RAC found that 51 per cent of drivers still feel unsure about the changes made to the Highway Code and whether they have boosted safety for pedestrians.

Almost a third of drivers (31 per cent) said they believe pedestrians face even greater danger at junctions since the new measures were first published.

Rod Dennis, road safety spokesperson for the RAC, said it was “concerning” that many were still uncertain about the changes despite being in place for two years.

He added: “It’s interesting that when respondents described their experiences as pedestrians, a high proportion still don’t see enough other drivers doing the right thing and giving way to those on foot at junctions.

“Conversely, when reflecting on their own actions as drivers, their responses were different, and a higher proportion feel confident they always let pedestrians cross.

“The updates are only as good as a universal understanding of them. If a driver turns into a junction as a pedestrian is crossing, it’s already too late, because that’s when confusion could turn into a collision.”

Only 13 per cent of motorists with at least 25 years of driving experience believe pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders are safer now the rules are in place, compared to 37 per cent of those with nine years experience.

Rod Dennis added: “Part of the reason may be that drivers simply don’t know that the changes have been made, least of all the consequences of ignoring them.

“Most drivers probably rarely refer to the Highway Code once they’ve passed their tests, and that’s where the problem could lie.

“We urge motorists to take another close look at the changes – either by visiting the Highway Code or RAC websites, or by picking up a printed copy.”


A car and cyclist on a busy road

New rule changes were also introduced to give cyclists more protection


The expert also called on the Government to take steps to remind all road users of the changes and what they should do in particular situations.

At the time of the changes, the THINK! campaign launched a communications drive, backed by over £500,000 in funding, although some believe this wasn’t as successful as hoped.

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