Highway Code overhaul arrives to cause 'confusion, conflict and danger on roads'

29 January 2022, 01:28 | Updated: 29 January 2022, 01:33

New Highway Code changes have come into force.
New Highway Code changes have come into force. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

An overhaul to the Highway Code has come into force, causing fears of "confusion, conflict and danger on the roads" due to motorists' lack of awareness over the changes.

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The new rules aim to establish a hierarchy on the roads, with those capable of causing most harm holding the most responsibility.

As a result, motorists now have to allow pedestrians to cross at junctions and cyclists are advised to ride in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, with pedestrians being at the top of the hierarchy.

However, the shake-up has caused concern for some due to few motorists being aware that changes have been made.

Read more: Highway Code changes: The five new rules most likely to catch people out

Read more: Highway Code changes - everything you need to know explained

Rebecca Ashton, the head of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, told The Times that the lack of awareness around the changes was "very worrying".

She added: "With no clear communication on this we’re in a situation where some road users will be unknowingly left unaware of major rule changes for weeks because the government has not planned their communication strategy clearly.

"The uncertainty of who knows and who doesn’t is a clear recipe for unnecessary confusion, conflict and danger on the road."

With a communications drive only planned to launch in mid-February, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes warned that there was a high risk of "angry clashes and, worse still, unnecessary collisions" in coming weeks.

He added: "Nobody wants to be on the right side of the Highway Code changes but in the back of an ambulance because of confusion on the part of a driver or any other road user."

Meanwhile, AA president Edmund King expressed concern over another potential risk factor from the guidance to give way to pedestrians at junctions.

He said drivers were "likely to get hit by another vehicle from behind" if they stop on dual carriageways or fast-flowing A roads to let someone cross, also warning that pedestrians could be endangered if one vehicle gives way but another travelling in the opposite direction fails to stop.

"Drivers will have to make their own judgements on what they should do in the scenarios they find themselves in," Mr King said.

"However, if the judgments of the driver and the pedestrian are at odds on a very busy road, this could lead to problems."

Nine sections of the code have been updated, with 50 rules added or amended. But the changes remain advisory, so non-compliance will not result in a fine.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the new instructions for road users would "help us make London the best city in the world to walk and cycle".