Sweeping changes to the Highway Code start to come into force from the end of January 2022 and include new regulations for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.
Four new rules and 49 changes to the Code include the requirement for drivers to give way to pedestrians at a junction as well as a new risk-based ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’, which places more responsibility on the drivers of larger vehicles to look after more vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
Other changes see a ban on the use of all handheld mobile devices except in an emergency, more power to local authorities enabling them to fine drivers up to £70 for minor traffic offences and extra protection for cyclists including a recommendation for motorists to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ method when opening a vehicle’s doors.
However, road safety experts have said that although the changes are welcome they could lead to motorists breaking the new rules.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research at leading road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, said: “The vast majority of people won’t have read the Highway Code for many years, meaning it is absolutely essential that changes are communicated in a simple, memorable and timely fashion.”
He continued: “There is now huge potential for more conflict on the roads rather than less,” adding “the government must also do more to effectively raise awareness of changes coming in.”
Under the new rules drivers no longer have priority at junctions and all traffic must stop for pedestrians waiting to cross while cyclists can ride wherever they feel safest.
Car drivers are now advised to treat cycles as any other road vehicle and cyclists should ride no less than half a metre from the kerb or further where it is safer.
At speeds of up to 30mph motorists must pass cyclists with at least 1.5 metres of space and give more space at higher speeds while vehicle users are being advised to use the so-called Dutch Reach method when exiting where the furthest hand from the door is used to open it causing occupants to swivel so they can see anything approaching from behind.
On mobile phones, motorists will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six penalty points if they use their device for any purpose unless in an emergency. Exemptions will include making a contactless payment with a phone while stationary but only in situations such as a drive-through restaurant or at a toll road pay point.
The changes will start to come into effect from January 29th with the laws regarding the powers of local authorities coming in during the spring.