New Highway Code rules will 'increase conflict between road users'

4 weeks ago 3

Motorists have given a damning verdict on changes to the Highway Code that have been proposed by the Department for Transport.

The update looks set to include new rules designed to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders with a revolutionary 'Hierarchy of Road Users' concept. 

However, a survey by one road safety charity has found that although the bulk of drivers polled backed the hierachy idea, they also believe the rules will increase conflict between different road users.

The proposed change would see motorists, who are likely to do the most harm, have the biggest responsibility to reduce road danger, starting with drivers of large vehicles, followed by those behind the wheel of cars and taxis, particularly around junctions. 

Highway Code update: Changes being made to the guidelines will see 'increase in conflict between road users', a safety charity has warned

IAM RoadSmart surveyed 3,600 car drivers and motorcycle riders and found that 71 per cent believe the new proposals will cause more issues between factions of road users, such as the often spiky relationship between cyclists and car drivers, especially in cities.

Of those polled by the independent safety organisation, which does advanced driver and rider training, more than half (57 per cent) said it will cause significant issues.

Yet, when asked about the new Code’s most controversial suggestions - to establish a hierarchy of road users – the majority (56 per cent) did agree that this is the right way forward.

In contrast, 26 per cent were against and almost one in five (19 per cent) are still to be convinced either way. 

The consultation period, which began on 28 July, closed on 27 October. However, there has yet to be an announcement about whether changes will become part of the guidelines for road users. 

On the new Code’s most controversial suggestions - to establish a hierarchy of road users – the majority (56 per cent) agree that this is the right way forward, but 26 per cent are against and almost one in five (19 per cent) are still to be convinced either way.

The update looks set to include a new revolutionary 'Hierarchy of Road Users' concept

The hierarchy doesn't just include vehicle users; it also means that cyclists and horse riders will have a responsibility to pedestrians if there are no cars nearby.

It means drivers could potentially be issued with fines if they cut across riders when turning into a junction or changing lanes.

The DfT says the hierarchy system does not give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but ensures a 'mutually respectful' and 'considerate culture'.

IAM RoadSmart says the new Code doesn’t suggest any obligation on cyclists to use cycle lanes or tracks when they are present, and a resounding 80 per cent of poll respondents believe this is a mistake.

However, some of the proposed changes were met with widespread support, with 63 per cent of those surveyed agreeing with the new advice that when riding a bike on busy roads, when vehicles are moving faster than them, cyclists should move over and allow traffic to overtake them. 

There is also strong support for every proposal that contains clear guidelines on passing distances, with 78 per cent in favour of the one and a half-metre gap between cyclist and vehicle travelling below 30mph, with a two-metre gap when above 30mph.

And 90 per cent agree with the new Code’s advice that drivers and motorcyclists should give horse riders at least two metres’ space and pass at speeds under 15 mph.

A hierarchy scheme would means drivers could potentially be issued with fines if they cut across riders when turning into a junction or changing lanes

The hierarchy doesn't just include vehicle users; it also means that cyclists and horse riders will have a responsibility to pedestrians if there are no cars nearby

Neil Greig, policy and research director at IAM RoadSmart, said that whatever changes are made, law makers must prioritise education as motorists who don't adhere to the updated guidelines could, in theory, face unlimited fines for careless driving. 

'The simple truth is that most of us don’t read the Highway Code

 Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart

'Regardless of what changes are introduced, it is clear there will be a need for a huge education campaign to ensure any amendments to the Highway Code are understood and fully adopted by the millions of existing UK drivers, motorcyclists and road users,' he said.

'The simple truth is that most of us don’t read the Highway Code unless we drive or ride professionally, or are about to take a test. 

'The Department for Transport needs to be realistic about the impact simply changing a seldom read document will have on the behavior and safety of road users.'

More than half of drivers gave their support for the addition of the 'Dutch Reach' method for drivers and passengers to open their vehicle doors.

This technique requires people exiting cars to use their left hand to operate the door handle, allowing the driver to naturally twist their body, making it easier to look over their shoulder and check for cyclists or other road users approaching.

Some 57 per cent backed its inclusion in the Highway Code.  

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