Changes to driving law spark backlash

Cyclists commuting in London

Major updates to the Highway Code have not been welcomed by the majority of motorists.

Driving law proposals introduce a new hierarchy of road users, giving priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders. The changes are aimed at helping make travel safer for vulnerable road users.

Give way

The new guidance:

  • Clarifies the rules on giving way to pedestrians waiting to cross the road
  • Requires drivers to give priority to cyclists at junctions when travelling straight ahead
  • Sets out safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the changes will most strongly apply to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, as they pose the greatest risk to other road users. 

This is followed by vans and minibuses, cars and taxis, and finally, motorbikes.

Jenni Wiggle, Interim CEO of Living Streets, backed the proposal.

She said: “The Highway Code currently treats all road users – from children walking to lorry drivers – as if they are equally responsible for their own or other people’s safety. However, people walking cause the least road danger but are often left paying the price.

“Pedestrians account for a quarter of road deaths, with the latest figures showing increases amongst vulnerable groups: children and older people.

“Road users who have potential to cause the greatest harm, such as the drivers of large motor vehicles, should also take the greatest share of responsibility to reduce the danger they pose.”

Two thirds of drivers disagree

However, not everyone is happy with the changes. In fact, a new survey shows only 30% of drivers think the new proposals are a good idea. 

The study by Admiral Multi Cover reveals nearly two thirds (63%) of road users believe everyone should be ranked equally when it comes to travel on the roads. This includes 60% who do not believe priority should be given to cyclists at junctions.

Over a quarter also say they think the driver should always have right of way after stopping at a junction. 

Ellie Willis, Head of Admiral Multi Cover, urged drivers to take notice of the new laws.

She said: “With an increase in the number of cyclists taking to the UK roads recently, and upcoming changes expected to the Highway Code, it’s important that people understand the rules to improve the safety for all road users.”

Help reduce driving hazards with 1st CENTRAL’s guide to keeping pedestrians and cyclists safe on the roads.