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Changes To Highway Code That You May Not Know About

The highway code is something that we should all be familiar with from the momentwe start learning to drive – but after this, a lot of us put away our guidebooks, forget what we’ve learned and fall into bad habits. Staying up to date with these rules is important, so you know what is legal and what isn’t, and so you can keep yourself and others around you safe on the road. It covers almost everything that you might come across as a driver, to help you out of sticky situations. Below, we’ll look at the most recent changes made to the Highway Code this year.

When you’re learning to drive, the Highway Code is important to help you pass your driving theory and practical test – and once you’ve mastered it, you can think about buying a car. Sometimes, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to buying a vehicle and choosing the best option for you, but with CCJ Car Finance, you can be considered for a loan regardless of any bad credit in the past, so you can drive away in your brand-new car with ease.

The road user hierarchy

There have been changes made to the Highway Code this year that impacts the hierarchy of road users. This hierarchy is typically used to identify users that are most at risk when using the road. It also sets out a list of thevehicles that can cause the greatest harm whilst driving, for example HGVs and large vehicle drivers have the greatest responsibility to ensure that they are reducing the risk of danger to others when they are on the road. So, if you’re driving a lorry, you’re at the bottom of this list!

The hierarchy looks like this:

  1. Pedestrians
  2. Cyclists
  3. Horse riders
  4. Motorcyclists
  5. Cars/Taxis
  6. Vans/Minibuses
  7. HGV/Large vehicles

As you can see, the vehicles tend to get larger as the list goes on, this is because large vehicles have more of a chance of creating a dangerous situation. Whilst pedestrians are the main users that we should all be looking out for, the update to the Highway Code has made it clear that pedestrians should also be aware of their duty to other road users.

Pedestrian priority

As shown in the hierarchy, pedestrians are the main priority in the highway code update. A new rule that drivers, cyclists, and horse riders alike will have to consider this year is that, if a pedestrian is waiting to cross at a junction, or a road that you’re turning into, you should allow the pedestrians to cross before you carry on. This is a big change to the code – in years gone by, motorists have always had priority.

Cyclists should also be looking out for pedestrians where they can. Pedestrians are allowed to use cycle tracks unless there is a sign that says they cannot. When sharing a cycle path, cyclists should give way to pedestrians – because pedestrians are at the top of the hierarchy! With these changes, cyclists are also reminded that only pedestrians can use the pavement.

Cyclist priority

With more of us looking to reduce our emissions and improve our carbon footprint, cycling is becoming more popular, andchanges have been made to the code to accommodate for this.This update to the Highway Code makes it essential for drivers and motorcyclists to not cut acrosscyclists when driving, especially when turning in or changing direction. This new rule applies regardless and is key in keeping cyclists safe from danger. Drivers should be aware of cyclists generally, giving them space and leaving a gap between the bike and the car – but especially when they’re moving past, alongside or in slow moving traffic.

The difference between must and should

In general, the Highway Code is used to keep road users as safe as possible, but not everything that the code states can be legally enforced. Some rules you’ll notice have ‘must or must not’ before them, this generally means that it is the law and must be followed, if not you could end up being prosecuted for committing a criminal offence.

You can tell if a rule in the Highway Code is legally binding or not by checking if you ‘must’ do something, or you ‘should’ do something. The word ‘should’ means it is simply guidance and something that can help to keep road users safe.

A few other changes

As well as these main three changes that focus on rules surrounding priorities of the road, there are a few other things that are pointed out to road users in this update. One of them is very important this year with the rise in popularity of electric cars. The Highway Code reminds drivers that charging cables for electric and hybrid vehicles should be kept safely away from pavements so that they don’t act as a trip hazard for pedestrians.

Another more unique piece of guidance that has been added into the Highway Code this year is the best way to open your car door. It states that by opening your car door with the opposite hand that your door is on, allows your head to naturally turn and look over your shoulder. This is a great way to check your surroundings without having to think too much about it!


As you can see, the changes to the Highway Code this year are largely based around ways that road users can keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. One of the easiest ways to remember these changes is to keep in mind that the pedestrian is most at risk on the roads, so therefore is being given higher priority from vehicles to keep them out of danger. As a rule, the larger the vehicle, the more responsibility it has to keep other road users safe.

The Highway code is easily accessible, and you can make sure you’re up to date on your rules and regulations by downloading the guide to your phone, so you can research any queries, and make sure that you’re driving legally and as safely as you can.

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