Cyclist left unable to walk after being hit by drunk-driver in Devon welcomes Highway Code changes

  • Watch Jacquie Bird's report

A cyclist has welcomed changes to the Highway Code after sustaining life-changing injuries after being hit by a drunk, uninsured, disqualified driver in North Devon.

Jean-Pierre de Villiers was on the eighth day of a charity bike ride from John o’ Groats to Land’s End in Cornwall when he was hit head-on by the driver in May 2019.

The former personal trainer hopes that new changes to the Highway Code – which give greater protection and priority to cyclists – can help avoid catastrophic crashes like his own.

He said: "It’s not even a matter of whether it’s possible, it’s already possible.

"It’s just our awareness is making us believe whatever it is that we believe. 'I should have the right of way', or 'cars should have the right of way' or ‘'I shouldn't be on the road at all'.

"This is all down to our current level of awareness and we don’t know what we don’t know so as long as we can keep raising our awareness and each other’s awareness we’re open to new things."

Jean-Pierre welcomes the changes to the Highway Code that give cyclists and pedestrians more protection Credit: ITV West Country

New changes to the Highway Code include giving cyclists priority when travelling straight at junctions and allowing pedestrians to use zebra crossings without having to wait for motorists to stop.

While the new rules in the highway code wouldn't have changed what happened to Jean Pierre, he said all road users need to be more aware of each other - be they pedestrian, car driver or cyclist.

He recognises the difficult of having to totally re-adjust his life because of his injuries and wants others to avoid suffering the same fate.

He said: "I am grateful to be blessed to define myself and my identity as an athlete but to all of a sudden have that taken away from you because you can’t move and you can’t walk etc. was quite difficult.

"It would be for hard anyone having their own identity taken away from them and all I had to do was just use what I knew and that was day by day looking at how can I get back to the person that I used.

"We had just come in to Devon and we decided to take a detour and that’s the last thing I remember."

The police are promoting the changes to the Highway Code with the help of Vision Zero South West Credit: ITV West Country

Jean-Pierre was in intensive care for two weeks. He broke both legs and an arm and punctured his lung. His heart and lungs were in trauma.

Devon and Cornwall Police is trying to promote Highway Code changes through road safety partnership Zero Vision South West.

Sergeant Owen Messenger from the force said: "It’s about sharing the road and looking after each other.

"Nobody wants to be involved in a collision and there’s not one person who’s been involved in a collision that’s left home thinking 'do you know what, I think I’m going to die today'.

"That’s what’s so sad about these collisions that it’s somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s daughter that’s involved and then you’ve got that massive impact on the family."