• January 7, 2022

  • Abby Nuttall

  • Driver Articles

The Highway Code is due to see several updates to it later in the month, along with some that came into play at the start of this year, but what do they really mean for drivers?

Well there’s actually quite a lot of important changes that you need to be aware of with the addition of new rules and changes to existing ones. We’ve rounded up everything you need to know in this article to help you understand how you’ll need to adapt your driving.

Using Mobile Phones in the Car

On the 1st of January, the first changes came into play and these had to do with using your mobile phone and other devices whilst driving.

There had previously been a legal loophole that allowed drivers to use their phone, provided they were not communicating via it, to take photos, change your music and even play games without breaking the laws on mobile usage. This has now been amended so that you cannot do any of these activities, or anything else when driving your vehicle, even if it is stationary at traffic lights or in stand-still traffic.

Drivers could receive a £200 fine and six points on their driving licence if they are found to be doing any of the prohibited actions.

There will be an exemption for stationary vehicles using their mobile phone as a contactless payment method, so it can continue to be used at drive-thrus and restaurants. And you will still be able to use hands-free navigation devices provided they are secured in a mount.

Changes to Road Priorities

The biggest changes are currently being reviewed by parliament but are expected to be approved and become legal on the 29th of January.

The most notable of these changes is that the hierarchy of vehicles on the road will be changing to ensure that all road users are as safe as possible. Those who are capable of doing the greatest harm will have a higher responsibility to reduce the danger for all road users. This means that drivers will now have more responsibility for the safety of pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists.

Cyclists and horse riders will also have a greater level of responsibility for pedestrian safety because they are able to inflict a greater level of harm.

Priority to Pedestrians

Under the new rules, pedestrians are prioritised in situations where they previously would have to give way. For example, if they are about to cross the road near a junction and another road user is turning onto the road via the junction they will have the right of way and cross first.

The changes also stress how they will be the only authorised users of pathways, including wheelchair and mobility scooter users, and cyclists and horse riders should be on the road.

Pedestrians are able to use any part of a cycle track or road unless explicitly stated otherwise.

Previously, you would only need to stop and give way to pedestrians already on the zebra crossing but under the new rules you will also be legally required for any pedestrians waiting to cross.

Cyclists Get More Space

Under the new regulations being introduced cars and other motor vehicles will need to be more aware of and cautious around cyclists.

The new amendments state that they should be given at least 1.5 metres of room when passing by them in order to prevent the backdraft from your vehicle affecting their balance.

The rules also state that drivers and motorcyclists should not cut across cyclists, horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles if they are in front of you “when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane”. Also, you should not turn at a junction if doing so would cause a cyclist or horse rider to stop or swerve and instead you need to wait for a safe gap.

In order to prevent you from accidentally hitting a cyclist when leaving your vehicle it’s recommended that you use the opposite hand, so for right-hand drive vehicles your left hand, to open the door so that your full body turns and your line of sight looks at the oncoming road and you’re more likely to spot a cyclist.

Cyclists themselves will also need to make a few changes under the new rules, which as a car driver you should be aware of as they could affect you.

The new regulations state that when passing pedestrians or horse riders the cyclist will need to give them plenty of room and alert them to their presence prior to overtaking. This means that you might see them come out further into the road when overtaking and you should allow them space to do so before manoeuvring yourself.

Most notable of all though is that cyclists are now being advised to ride in the middle of the lane, rather than keeping left, especially on quieter roads and heavy traffic. This is to make them more visible to other road users and to make it easier for them to manoeuvre when they need to turn right.

When on a fast-moving and busy road they are advised to ensure they allow enough space for drivers to pass by them.

Other Changes to the Highway Code

Other changes include a modification to Rule 91 which deals with driver fitness, means drivers could be fined for not getting sufficient sleep.

There are also changes that allow drivers to be fined more easily by local authorities if they are performing bad manoeuvres or stop in yellow junction boxes.

If you want to find out more about the changes then you can see a full table of changes from the government here.