Lack of communication from the Government on sweeping changes to the Highway Code from next weekend means many motorists could inadvertently break the rules of the road, according to IAM RoadSmart.
The major updates include four new rules and 49 changes to the Code, introducing the requirement for drivers to give way to pedestrians at a junction, as the Government pushes ahead with a new risk-based ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’. Announced last year, this places more responsibility on the drivers of larger vehicles to look after more vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians.
But while IAM RoadSmart has welcomed some of the changes, the road safety charity has cautioned that the new rules will be of very little benefit if the public aren’t made aware of them.
Neil Greig, director of policy and research, warned that the vast majority of people won’t have read the Highway Code for many years, meaning it is absolutely essential that changes are communicated in a simple, memorable and timely fashion.
“Unfortunately, this has not been the case so far, meaning there is now huge potential for more conflict on the roads rather than less.
“IAM RoadSmart will continue to inform its members and the wider public about such changes, but the Government must also do more to effectively raise awareness of changes coming in just under a week’s time, ensuring Britain’s world-leading road safety record is not put at risk.”
The charity also said there was very little evidence from trials or pilot schemes that the new hierarchy or rules would help people feel safer undertaking active forms of travel.
There are also concerns that the Code has neglected the needs of motorcyclists.
Craig Carey-Clinch, executive director of the National Motorcyclists Council (NMC), commented: “Consultation with motorcycle user groups during the early development phase of the new code was absent, so the new Code very much reflects inputs and changes in relation to support for other active travel modes. As a result, the new rules do not fully reflect the needs of motorcyclists as vulnerable road users.”
The NMC also expressed concerns about the creation of a transport mode hierarchy, as this can give the impression that some road user groups are responsible for keeping others safe.
“It is absolutely vital for road safety that 100% of road users take responsibility for their own safety 100% of the time – this approach would reduce conflicts on the road and ensure that safety is improved for all,” added Carey-Clinch.
However, the British Horse Society (BHS) greeted the changes, which it said were a significant step forward for equestrian road safety and will help protect vulnerable road users, making the roads safer for everyone.
Alan Hiscox, director of safety at the BHS, added: “I am pleased that the BHS was able to represent the equestrian community within the Highway Code stakeholder group, alongside other vulnerable user groups, to ensure that all equestrians were included in the changes.
“Our Dead Slow campaign messaging about how to pass horses safely on the roads will be included, as well as reducing the advisory speed to pass a horse from 15mph to 10mph and including horses alongside cyclists in the hierarchy of road users.”
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