Fears over road rage incidents as Highway Code changes to come into force

23 January 2022, 12:34

The new rules will come into force this Saturday.
The new rules will come into force this Saturday. Picture: Alamy

By Elizabeth Haigh

Fears have been raised over confusion and a possible spike in road rage incidents ahead of changes to the Highway Code coming into force next week.

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The changes, which take effect on January 29, include requiring drivers to give way to cyclists and pedestrians at junctions, as well as encouraging cyclists to use the middle of the road on quiet roads, before moving aside to let faster vehicles pass.

The Alliance of British Drivers and IAM RoadSmart, among other motoring organisations, have raised concerns after a survey this month revealed a third of motorists did not know the Highway Code was being changed.

More than 13,700 drivers were questioned between January 8 and 18 for the survey, shared by PA.

Neil Greig, the director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, told the Times: "A lot of drivers are going to think that somebody cycling in the middle of the lane in front of them is doing it to deliberately slow them down. 

"That leads to conflict and road rage and inappropriate overtaking. Everybody needs to know all of these changes at the same time for it to work."

The AA accused the Government of being "far too silent" on the changes, but the Department for Transport (DfT) insisted it will ensure "all road users are aware".

Read more: Major changes to Highway Code arrive next week - but one in three drivers aren't aware

Drivers will have more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse, and cyclists will have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians under the new rules.

The changes include clearer guidance for drivers to leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and instructing drivers turning into a road to give way to pedestrians waiting to cross.

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It also states cyclists should stay at least half a metre away from the kerb on fast moving roads such as dual carriageways.

There will also be a recommendation for car users to reduce the risk of opening a door into the path of a cyclist by using the hand on the opposite side to the door, as that will often lead to them looking over their shoulder.

This is known as the Dutch Reach technique.

"With a week to go, too many drivers are unaware of the new rules of the road," said AA head of roads policy Jack Cousens.

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"While the Government formally announced these changes last summer, they have been far too silent in promoting them.

"Shockingly, one in 25 drivers say they have no intention of looking at the new rules.

"These changes affect everyone, so we encourage people to read the updated code now so we can make our roads safer."

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes described the amendments as "a significant departure from what's gone before".

He said it is "vitally important" that all road users "fully understand what's new".