Drivers urged to learn new Highway Code rules

By Giles Blair

DRIVERS are being urged to get up to speed with a raft of major changes the Government is set to make to the Highway Code this autumn.

The updates are the largest overhauls to the code since mid-2018 and are largely aimed at improving safety for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders.

Among the changes is the inclusion of the Dutch Reach – where drivers and passengers use the hand furthest from the door to exit their vehicle.

This naturally turns the driver or passenger towards the window, making it easier to spot approaching cyclists.

IAM RoadSmart safety charity boss Neil Greig said: “Due to blind spots, dirt, glare, or improper adjustment, mirrors alone are ineffective in attempts to put the brakes on cycling injuries and fatalities caused by drivers and passengers exiting their vehicles.

“The Dutch Reach is also especially important for rear passengers, who of course don’t have the benefit of mirrors.”

Worryingly, of 10,000 people IAM surveyed, a resounding 85 per cent were unaware of what the Dutch Reach is. This highlights the need for all drivers, not just learners, to familiarise themselves with this new measure.

Another of the key additions to the code is the new “hierarchy of road users”, which ensures those who have the potential to do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others.

This means road users at the top are pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders, while towards the bottom are motorbikes, cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles.

Greig added: “IAM RoadSmart believes all road users should take equal responsibility for their safety on the roads and that the hierarchy may encourage some to take unnecessary risks.

“The existing rule states drivers should watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which you are turning and ‘if they have started to cross’, they have priority. But the new code makes it explicit that pedestrians and cyclists have priority when travelling straight ahead at junctions.”

In a further effort to protect those at the top of the hierarchy of road users, drivers must now also give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians as well as cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing. Previously, drivers only had to stop once the road user had started to cross.

Greig concluded: “The new changes are substantial and the key to their success will be in communicating the new approach to drivers and riders who haven’t read a Highway Code for years.”

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