Changes to The Highway Code: hierarchy of road users

•    What is the new hierarchy?
•    Who is responsible?
•    Who is affected?
•    Staying up-to-date


What’s happened?

On the 29th January 2022, to improve the safety of people walking, cycling and riding horses, the rules for all types of road users were updated in The Highway Code. As a motorist, it is therefore your responsibility to take these changes onboard and ensure you stay up to date with The Highway Code, checking it regularly to understand how any changes will affect your driving behaviour or responsibilities.

What is the new hierarchy of road users?

The changes made by the Government on 29th January introduced a new ‘hierarchy of road users’. The new hierarchy explains that those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others. The principle therefore applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, but also of cars and motorcycles.

Other more vulnerable road users have a responsibility to reduce danger to people walking. However, none of this detracts from the responsibility of ALL road users, including people walking, cycling or riding a horse, to have regard for their own and other road users’ safety.
You can read more about these changes on GOV.UK.

Changes at a glance

The latest changes to The Highway Code include:
•    Giving people walking across the road and cyclists going straight ahead, priority when turning in and out of junctions
•    Leaving at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph and to give them more space when overtaking at higher speeds.
•    When passing people riding a horse or driving a horse-drawn vehicle at speeds under 10 mph allowing them at least 2 metres of space
•    Allowing at least 2 metres of space and keep to a low speed when passing a person who is walking in the road
•    Encouraging people driving vehicles to look over their shoulder behind them to see people cycling or walking nearby, before they open their door
•    Cyclists may ride in the centre of the road or two abreast for their own safety, whilst allowing others to overtake when it is safe for them to do so

Why staying up-to-date is important

It's important that you understand your responsibility for the safety of other road users, as many of the rules in the code are legal requirements, so if you disobey these rules, you’re committing a criminal offence. In addition, if you do not follow the other rules in the code, it can be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability.

How to stay updated

It’s easy to keep up to date with these, and other future changes, to The Highway Code, online. GOV.UK includes a list of the latest updates that have been made, so it’s quick and easy to see what has changed. You can also sign up for email alerts whenever The Highway Code is updated.

The Highway Code on GOV.UK allows you to:
•    search for key words and phrases within The Highway Code
•    quickly move between related rules
•    follow links to the original laws on which the rules are based
•    print sections more easily
•    there’s also an official Highway Code app.

Help spread the word

As well as understanding these rule changes yourself, you’ll be helping others if you also let your family, friends and colleagues know about them and the importance of staying up to date with The Highway Code throughout their driving lifetime.


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