By Charlotte Le Maire – arch.portfolio member.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Highway Code changes. Even so, a staggering number of drivers and companies aren’t really aware of just what is changing and how it might impact them.

In fact, I stood in front of a group of professional drivers recently and asked if they knew about the forthcoming changes; not one of them did. Understandably, their focus is on the day to day running of the business. But… how costly could this be in terms of road safety?

I usually get the same response when I ask whether anyone in the room has even read the Highway Code since passing their driving test…. Because driving is something we do every day, without thinking, most of us would never consider picking up the Highway Code to see what has changed and how it might affect each and every one of us. The danger is that if some have read about the changes and others haven’t, we are all abiding by different rules on the road which is a recipe for disaster.

So, what are the main changes?

We now have a ‘Hierarchy of Road users’ putting pedestrians at the top of that list with motorists—who have the most potential to harm other road users—being told they now have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they pose to others.

This new hierarchy could have significant ramifications in future court cases involving motorists hitting cyclists and pedestrians. It has always been the case in the criminal courts that colliding with a vulnerable road user ‘aggravates’ the offence, meaning that motorists often faced higher sentences. However, this change is likely to put this issue at the forefront of any Tribunal’s mind when determining either guilt or sentence. What was once perhaps an arguable case in terms of ‘fault’ may no longer be arguable making road traffic offences even harder to defend.

The new Highway Code will introduce strengthened pedestrian priority on pavements and when they are crossing or waiting to cross a road.

And, in a revised rule that will generate much controversy, the Highway Code will also stress that cyclists traveling straight ahead will have priority over motorists at junctions.

There will also be further guidance on how much space motorists must leave when overtaking cyclists.

The critical change will be the introduction of Rule H1, a “hierarchy of responsibility.”

The hierarchy places pedestrians at the top and the heaviest road users at the bottom.

The hierarchy will be:

  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars/taxis
  • Vans/minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles/heavy goods vehicles


In the current Highway Code there’s a little-understood rule that pedestrians have priority at junctions. Rule 170 states that motorists should give way to pedestrians “if they have started to cross.”

The proposed new rules for pedestrians significantly increase this presumption of priority. Pedestrians will now have priority whether or not they have started to cross a road. This places a huge onus on a motorist to be constantly looking as to whether a pedestrian is intending to cross and forces motorists to be on almost constant alert to the possibility.

The risks to motorists – what to expect

As discussed above, we know that most people, even professional drivers do not read the Highway Code again after passing their test. It is also clear that many are simply not aware of the changes coming in. The real challenge will be to educate the industry. Without this, the changes could go one of three ways (or, more likely, all of the three ways)

  1. They won’t have the desired effect and little will change
  2. There will be more collisions due to confusion / lack of knowledge concerning the changes
  3. There will potentially be more conflict between road users

I can certainly see all these things happening. There are likely to be more collisions with vulnerable road users who assume priority and simply start to cross thinking a motorist will stop, be it pedestrians or cyclists. Motorists may not expect a cyclist to be in the middle of a lane when they navigate a corner for example and dangerous assumptions could be made on both sides.

Will there be more rear end collisions as a result of harsh braking to avoid a vulnerable road user when approaching junctions? Almost certainly.

The questions you need to ask yourself if you are a motorist, be it driving a car, van or HGV are:

  • Have I read the Highway Code?
  • Do I know what is expected of me?
  • What are the consequences for me if I have a collision as a result of non-compliance with the new rules?


There are also vital questions you need to ask yourself if you run any size or type of fleet:

  • Am I aware of all the new rules?
  • Do I know what it means for me and my fleet of drivers?
  • Have I ensured that all my employees are aware of the changes?
  • What are the consequences for me and/or my company if a collision occurs as a result of non-compliance with the new rules?


‘Arch Fleet’ by Arch Law offers complete training packages on a wide variety of topics, including Highway Code changes should any assistance be required.

For more information please contact Charlotte Le Maire at

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