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Do you know the Highway Code changes effective as of 29th January 2022? According to a recent survey, approximately 33% of motorists are unaware of the changes and how they will affect them and potentially their car insurance. Department for Transport figures report 4,290 pedestrians and 4,700 cyclists killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads during 2020/21. As a result, Highway Code changes introduce protection for those most at risk. Chief among these are pedestrians, cyclists, children, older people, and the disabled.

As specialist insurance providers since 1982, Acorn Insurance would like our customers to be aware of these changes. We want to highlight how the changes will affect our customers and potential future driving habits.

What is the Highway Code?

Firstly, the Highway Code is a collection of advisory guides and mandatory rules for all UK road users. Indeed, the origins of the code can be traced back to 1920. Interestingly, it was first published in 1931 and is frequently updated to reflect modern road habits. Secondly, the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) maintain it collaboratively. Finally, selected elements of the Highway Code are legal requirements, and all drivers must adhere to them. Importantly, this includes the significant 29th January 2022 update.

What are the Highway Code changes?

First and foremost, the biggest Highway Code changes introduce a hierarchy of road users. This is based on how likely road users are to cause harm based on the vehicle they are driving. Therefore, the larger and more dangerous the vehicle, the greater the responsibility to reduce the potential threat.

All drivers will now have added responsibility when it comes to pedestrian and cyclist awareness. Above all, dangerous vehicles will be expected to proceed with additional caution. Further information on the 8 changes include:

Hierarchy of road users

The Highway Code has been updated to include 3 new rules regarding the hierarchy placing road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the hierarchy.

People crossing the road at junctions

This update clarifies when people are crossing or waiting to cross at a junction, other traffic should give way and other situations in which this applies.

Walking, cycling, or riding in shared spaces

The highway code has now been updated to provide guidance about routes and spaces which are shared by people walking, cycling, and riding horses.

Positioning in the road when cycling

Updated positioning guidance for people cycling including riding in the centre of the lane, in slower-moving traffic, and at junctions.

Overtaking when driving or cycling

This has updated guidance on overtaking, safe passing distances and speeds for people on cycles or motorcycles. 

People cycling at junctions

The code provides new advice for cyclists when turning, giving way, and making them as visible as possible.

Cycling, horse riding, and driving horse-drawn vehicles on roundabouts

Updates now clarify that motorcycles should give priority to people cycling on roundabouts. Also, drivers entering a roundabout should take care not to cut across people cycling.

Parking, charging and leaving vehicles

The code recommends the ‘Dutch Reach’ where people should open the door using their hand on the opposite side to the door they are opening. This results in a safer opening.

Charging a vehicle

For the first time, the code includes guidance about using electric vehicle charging points. When using one, people should:

  • Park close to the charge point and avoid creating a trip hazard for people walking from trailing cables
  • Display a warning sign if you can
  • Return charging cables and connectors neatly to minimise the danger to other people and avoid creating an obstacle for other road users

For additional guidance please consult the gov.uk article “The Highway Code: 8 changes you need to know from 29 January 2022”.

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