Proposed changes to the Highway Code for 2021 – what you need to know

Here’s everything you need to know about the proposed changes to the Highway Code and how they’ll affect you.

The Government has proposed a raft of changes to the UK’s Highway Code, most of which will affect drivers.

The main aim is to create a “hierarchy” of road users that puts greater responsibility for ensuring the safety of all road users on those who can do the most damage. For example, if you find yourself driving along next to a cyclist, you, as a driver, have a burden of responsibility to ensure the safety of the cyclist. That’s not to say that the cyclist has no responsibility for their own safety, but it does mean that you’ll face the toughest questions should anything happen.

You might think this doesn’t sound like much of a change. Driver’s have always been expected to ensure the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other vulnerable road users, but the proposed changes formalise that hierarchy so everyone knows where they stand.

Other proposed changes concern who has priority at a junction. Drivers will be expected to make sure that no vulnerable road users (such as pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders) are crossing the junction, waiting to cross, or approaching and likely to cross. If you spot any of the above, you’ll have to wait for a safe space before turning into or out of the junction.

Likewise, if you find yourself behind or alongside a cyclist or horserider whilst waiting to turn out of a junction, you will have to wait for the cyclist to go first.

Another change that will particularly affect drivers regards safe clearance for overtaking cyclists. A clearance of 1.5 metres at speeds under 30mph and 2.0 metres at speeds over 30mph should be allowed. Pedestrians and horses should be given clearance of 2.0 metres and horses should be passed at a maximum of 15mph.

If the clearances aren’t possible, you’ll have to wait until they are. Again, this change simply formalises what has previously been an ill-defined rule stating that you should pass at a safe distance. You should always give any road user that you need to overtake as much space as possible, anyway.

Lastly, owners of electric cars should ensure that the charging cable doesn’t pose a trip hazard to pedestrians.

There are other changes that specifically apply to other types of road user and some that just tidy-up existing rules. You can read the proposed changes in full here. The changes are in the consultation phase and we encourage you to give your thoughts. We certainly will be. Details of how to do so are at the link above.