Are pedestrians really safer after the 2022 Highway Code update?

Pedestrians crossing a road in Britain

Fewer than a fifth of British drivers (18%) think the changes to the Highway Code made in 2022 have improved the safety of pedestrians, according to a recent poll commissioned by the RAC. 

In fact, the findings suggest our roads may now pose even more danger to those travelling by foot. 

RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “When initially introduced, we welcomed the major Highway Code changes because they were set to make the roads much safer for the most vulnerable users.

“However, two years on, it’s concerning to see there’s still so much uncertainty, with most drivers not stopping for people crossing when they should and therefore many pedestrians seeing no change to their safety at junctions.” 

The 2022 Highway Code update 

The Highway Code, which contains advice and rules for people using Britain’s roads, was amended by the Department for Transport (DfT) on January 29 2022 to provide more protection for pedestrians, who are the most vulnerable road users. 

But has it actually improved their safety? 

The RAC’s poll of 2,500 drivers indicated otherwise, with 31% thinking pedestrians face even greater danger at junctions since the amendments. 

The code states that traffic turning at junctions should give way when pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross the road.

Less than a quarter (23%) of respondents to the survey said they always do this, while 19% admitted they do not stop very often and 6% said they never do.

The code also provides a hierarchy of road users, meaning someone driving has more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.

Cyclists are additionally requested to make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and when approaching junctions.

A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in November 2023 warned that messaging around Highway Code changes was not communicated effectively enough to encourage public participation. 

Why aren’t drivers abiding by the code? 

A lack of awareness around the changing Highway Code rules may be the main culprit. 

Dennis alluded to this, saying: “Part of the reason may be that drivers simply don’t know that the changes have been made, least of all the consequences of ignoring them.

“Most drivers probably rarely refer to the Highway Code once they’ve passed their tests, and that’s where the problem could lie.

“We’d also urge the Government to make another concerted effort in communicating the changes to all road users.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “All road users must feel confident using our roads which is why we made sure the changes to the Highway Code were directly informed by a public consultation with over 20,000 responses.

“To increase awareness of the changes, we have used our Think! campaign to increase awareness and understanding of the changes over the last two years.” 

Are you up to date on the UK’s rules of the road? See the new motoring laws coming into effect in 2024.

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