Major campaign to raise awareness of Highway Code changes

Major campaign to raise awareness of Highway Code changes

More than £500,000 will be spent raising awareness of changes to the Highway Code following concerns that many drivers do not know it is being revamped.

The Department of Transport said its road safety offshoot Think! will launch a communications drive in mid-February to ensure “road-users across the country understand their responsibilities”.

The Highway Code, which contains advice and rules for people on Britain’s roads, is set to be updated from this weekend to provide more protection for vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

An AA survey of more than 13,700 drivers conducted earlier this month indicated that 33% were unaware of the changes, including four percent who had “no intention” of looking at the details.

The publicity campaign will run across radio and social media channels, with further activity later in the summer.

It will operate in partnership with Transport for London and the Scottish Government.

Changes to the Highway Code come into effect on Saturday pending parliamentary approval.

Cyclists will be advised to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic, and when approaching junctions to make themselves as visible as possible.

They will be reminded they can ride two abreast – as is already the case – but must allow drivers behind them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

A hierarchy of road users will be introduced, meaning someone driving will have more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse, and cyclists will have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians.

Other key amendments include clearer guidance for drivers to leave a distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists, and instructing traffic to give way when pedestrians are waiting to cross at junctions.

There will also be a recommendation for car occupants to open doors using their hand on the opposite side to the door, making them turn their head to look over their shoulder behind them.

This technique, known as the Dutch Reach, reduces the chances of doors being opening into the path of cyclists and motorcyclists.

The changes are advisory, meaning non-compliance will not result in a fine.

Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.

“These updates to the Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road users know the rules of the road.”

Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman, the new active travel commissioner for England, said: “It shouldn’t take bravery to cross a road or ride to school with kids but sometimes it feels that way.

“These changes to the Highway Code clarify our responsibility to each other and simply reinforce what good road users already do.”

The RAC’s head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes added: “These major changes to the Highway Code should make the roads safer for the most vulnerable road users, in particular those walking and cycling, so are to be welcomed.

“But it’s vitally important that all road users – especially drivers – take the time to fully understand what’s new as some of the changes are a significant departure from what’s gone before.”

Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at charity Cycling UK, said a “long-term well-funded awareness campaign” is needed.

He went on: “Cycling UK is pleased to see a financial commitment, at least in the short term, to communicating the changes.

“People didn’t change their attitude to wearing seat belts and drink-driving overnight, and many won’t change their behaviour the next day simply because new Highway Code rules have been introduced.”

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