Road users can easily find themselves caught out by recent changes to the Highway Code.
Some of the updates will take some getting used to, especially for those of us who are used to the old rules. As drivers or operators of vans and large vehicles, some of the changes are especially relevant.
- Updates were made on 29th January 2022 to improve the safety of those 'most at risk'
- 'Hierarchy of Road Users' is especially important for vans and large vehicles.
- New 'Dutch Reach' technique for leaving a parked vehicle and EV Charge point Guidance.
We've highlighted some of the key rule changes and given a background on what they mean for drivers of vans.
Why was the Highway Code changed?
The Highway Code is regularly updated, with the aim of promoting safety on the road and contributing to a more efficient transport system. Keeping up to date with the Highway Code is important for anyone using the road.
One of the main aims of the latest updates was to improve the safety of people walking, cycling, and riding horses. This group of road users were seen as most at risk of injury in the event of a collision.
The changes were decided after a consultation with over 20,000 responses that ran from July to October 2020.
What do the Highway Code changes mean for drivers and road users?
Not following the Highway Code rules can have severe legal repercussions.
Rules with 'must/must not' wording is legally required and breaking them can lead to fines, penalty points, disqualification, or imprisonment.
For advisory rules that use wording such as 'should/should not' or 'do/do not', disobeying them can be used as evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.
What were some of the main changes for van drivers/operators?
1. Hierarchy of Road Users
The 'Hierarchy of Road Users' gives importance to those most at risk in the event of a collision. The group of road users identified as most vulnerable are pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists
Drivers of vans and minibuses were mentioned as part of a group of larger vehicles that could cause the most harm in the event of a collision. Van drivers and operators of larger vehicles, therefore, have a greater responsibility to take extra care on the road, as per the Hierarchy of Road Users.
2. Overtaking when driving or cycling
Don’t be surprised if you find cyclists in the middle of the road. Cyclists have been advised to position themselves in the centre of their lane on quiet roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions or where roads narrow.
Other important rule changes on overtaking:
- Leave at least 1.5m (5 ft) when overtaking people cycling. If you are travelling over 30mph, you should leave even more space.
- Leave at least 2m (6.5ft) for horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles travelling at speeds slower than 10mph.
- Leave at least 2m (6.5ft) and keep a low speed when passing people walking on the road.
- Do not overtake if its unsafe and you can’t keep the minimum safe distance.
One of the rules introduced that could catch drivers out is that pedestrians now have priority when crossing at junctions. If pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross a road that you are turning into, you should give way to pedestrians.
Drivers should also ensure that they wait to turn at a junction if doing so would cause cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going straight ahead to swerve.
4. Parking, Charging and leaving vehicles
There’s a new ‘Dutch Reach’ technique when leaving vehicles. Both drivers and passengers should use their hands on the opposite side of the door they are opening. The thinking behind this is that the technique will cause you to look over your shoulder, giving you a better chance of spotting cyclists, motorcyclists, or pedestrians.
5. Electric Vehicle Charge Points
With rising numbers of EVs, it makes sense that the changes would include a new rule to address safely using charging points. The Highway Code now sets out that you should:
- Avoid creating trip hazards with the cables by parking close to the charge point and returning cables neatly.
- Display a warning sign, if possible, to alert other road users.
Where can I find the full Highway Code and its changes?
The Highway Code is essential reading for nearly everyone. If you’re out on the road, on the pavement or using shared paths, the rules will help you stay safe and on the right side of the law.
- Government Website (one of the best sources for up-to-date info)
- Highway Code iOS app
- Book Stores both online and on the high street
How can I stay up to date with future changes to the Highway Code?
The Highway Code is a living document that’s subject to changes, but there are various ways you can stay up to date. The Government's advice on staying up to date: