Changes to the Highway Code come into effect this month – could you be caught out by updates you knew nothing about?

The Highway Code has evolved and road users unaware of the changes coming into force in 2022 could be caught out.

Detailing everything you need to know about being on the road, including laws, advice and information required to travel safely, the Highway code is a road user’s bible.

It’s not a static document, though, and is occasionally updated based on new learnings. For 2022, a series of updates have been introduced, largely focused on priorities for everyone from pedestrians to HGVs.

However, despite the Department for Transport insisting ‘all road users are aware’ of what’s happening, the AA has warned that two-thirds of the 13,000 people it polled before Christmas did not know changes were coming.

To make sure you don’t get caught out by the rule changes, here’s everything you need to know about what’s new, ahead of their introduction at the end of January.

New Highway Code rules

The focus has been on creating a ‘hierarchy’ of road users, giving priority to those more vulnerable. It means those who can do the greatest harm to others have a higher level of responsibility to reduce the danger.

As an example of this, it is the responsibility of a car driver to be aware of cyclists.

Additional Highway Code changes for vulnerable road users

One that has a good chance of creating some confusion – especially if not everyone is aware of it – is a new rule surrounding crossing priorities for pedestrians.

Now, when a car is turning into a road or exiting a road, they should stop to let pedestrians cross.

Further to being aware of more vulnerable road users, new rules have been introduced relating to turning into a new road or changing lanes.

Now, there’s direct guidance that says you should not turn across the path of a cyclist or horse rider that is continuing ahead on the same road.

In practical terms, it means you should not overtake them shortly before turning left, instead waiting behind them and pulling in once they have passed the junction.

Highway code changes when overtaking cyclists

Speaking of overtaking cyclists, new rules designed to further protect two-wheeled road users suggest that you should leave 1.5 metres when overtaking at speeds of up to 30mph and you should give even more space when overtaking at higher speeds.

What is the Dutch Reach?

The Highway Code now includes a recommendation that you should open the door of a parked car using the ‘Dutch Reach’ method.

This involves using the opposite hand to the one that’s closest to the door making you reach across your body and turn outwards. This means you naturally check what’s coming reducing the risk of opening your door onto a cyclist.