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Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Highway Code changes set to take effect this weekend

Cyclists will also receive fresh guidance to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions in order to make themselves as clearly visible as possible. They’ll also be reminded they can ride two abreast – as has always been the case and which can be safer in large groups or with children – but they must be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

Meanwhile motorists will be encouraged to adopt the so-called ‘Dutch Reach’, opening the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.

The Government’s THINK! campaign will soon launch a communications drive, backed by over £500,000 in funding, raising awareness of the changes and ensuring road-users across the country understand their responsibilities. The campaign will run across radio and social media channels, with further campaign activity to follow later in the summer.

The new updates are advisory, so non-compliance will not result in a fine. Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, said:  “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.

“These updates to The Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road-users know the rules of the road.”

The Government initially announced the detail of the incoming updates to The Highway Code to national media last summer. They follow a public consultation where nearly 21,000 people submitted their views, with the majority supporting every single one of the changes coming into force this weekend.

The changes seek to improve the safety of those most at risk on our roads. Everyone has an equal right to use the road, and likewise everyone has a shared responsibility to behave in a safe and considerate manner.

The Department for Transport engaged with key stakeholders while developing the changes, and a Highway Code Communications Working Group has been established, with industry working alongside Government to raise awareness.

The changes will be made to the digital version of The Highway Code this weekend, followed by an update to the printed version which is due to be published in April 2022. Eight of the most significant changes are explained here.

RAC Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes said: “These major changes to the Highway Code should make the roads safer for the most vulnerable road users, in particular those walking and cycling, so are to be welcomed. But it’s vitally important that all road users – especially drivers – take the time to fully understand what’s new as some of the changes are a significant departure from what’s gone before. For instance, drivers turning into a road should now give way to any pedestrians waiting to cross.”

As part of the work to improve road safety even further, the Department for Transport also recently announced plans to change the laws around using handheld mobile phones while driving. They will be made stricter later this year, making virtually any use of them behind the wheel illegal, with those caught breaking the law potentially facing 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.

car finance experts CarMoney is warning motorists to be mindful of an everyday driving habit that may come with an unexpected fine:

Stopping beyond the white line at traffic lights – £100 + 3 penalty points

A simple mistake of stopping beyond the Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) could land drivers with a £100 fine plus three penalty points on their licence. The white line box indicates a reserved space for cyclists to be visible and ahead of cars and motorcycles, but many motorists creep into this box, risking a fine. To avoid this, be mindful of stopping at a red light behind the first white line and giving space to cyclists in front.

Other unexpected offences that can catch out drivers include:

Using phone to change playlist whilst driving – £200

Aimed at preventing dangerous driving, new laws will ban drivers from using their phones to change music streaming playlists, take videos and pictures. Although using a phone whilst driving for phone calls was banned in 2003, this new rule may still affect ‘hands-free’ device usage if motorists are found to be driving recklessly.

Throwing a cigarette out of a car window – £100

Whether the car is moving or not, the “incorrect disposal of a cigarette” out of the window is classed as littering and may come with a fixed penalty notice of £50-100 for caught offenders. Whilst smoking and driving is not an offence in itself if in a vehicle with passengers over the age of 18, the fine was introduced to curb the negative impact of cigarette butts on the environment and to be in line with current littering laws. Avoid smoking whilst driving to reduce the risk of a littering fine.

Having a dirty number plate – £1,000

It’s easily done, especially in the winter months, with dirt build-up from wet roads but a dirty number plate can result in a £1,000 fine. Having an “unreadable” number plate goes against the Highway Code, which states that “lights, indicators and number plates must be kept clean and clear”. So keep your plates wiped clean after journeys on dirty roads.

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