Fears for road safety as many remain unaware of changes in new Highway Code

The adjustments to the Highway Code mean a driver is now more likely to be penalised for putting other road users in harm's way. Credit: ITV Tonight

Do you know where a cyclist should position themselves on the highway when they’re approaching a junction, on a quiet road, or in slow moving traffic?

Most people we surveyed either did not know the answer to this question, or they got it wrong.

Or imagine a vehicle is turning left while a pedestrian is waiting to cross the road at the junction. Who has the right of way? 38% of respondents either didn’t know the answer here, or they picked the wrong one.

These are pretty important questions, particularly if you’re the pedestrian or the cyclist involved.

They are based on changes to the Highway Code which came into effect at the start of this year.

Changes which are aimed at making it safer to be a cyclist, and safer to walk, on or across British roads.

The government wants us all to drive less. If we all cycled or walked more, it might keep problems like obesity at bay.

And of course it would also help in the attempt to meet their targets on climate change and reducing carbon emissions.

But riding a bicycle - particularly in city centres - can be a dangerous business. Every year more than 100 cyclists in the UK are killed on the road.

The new Highway Code establishes a new ‘hierarchy of road users’.

Cars and HGV drivers are at the bottom of a new hierarchy of road users. Credit: PA

The most vulnerable - pedestrians and cyclists - are at the top of the hierarchy, while those most likely to cause harm - car and HGV drivers - are at the bottom.

The idea is that those people in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of an accident bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.

There’s a great deal of concern that the government hasn’t done enough to make all road users aware of the new rules.

The RAC says that less than a third of drivers fully understand the changes.

Cycling UK complains that there’s been nowhere near enough communication from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Drivers of large vehicles must now recognise they pose the greatest threat of harm to smaller cars, horse riders, cyclists and pedestrians. Credit: ITV Tonight

So , there’s a real risk of not just conflict between road users, but collisions too, and accidents which should have been avoided.

The DfT told us that its changes to the Highway Code continue to improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, and that a working group of key organisations has been established to help us spread the word.

In the meantime, whether you’re in a car, on a bike or on foot, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the new rules.

And just in case you’re still wondering, a cyclist should be in the middle of the lane when approaching a junction, and if a pedestrian is waiting to cross the road while a vehicle is turning left at a junction, its the person on foot who has the right of way.

Tonight / Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,249 British adults aged 18+ online between 13th and 15th May 2022.

Who Rules Britain’s Roads? airs at 8:30pm on Thursday on ITV and is available after on the ITV Hub.

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