Motorists are being urged to brush up on the highway code with a series of big changes to driving laws coming into force in 2022.
The Highway Code, which contains advice and rules for people on Britain’s roads, is expected to be amended next month to introduce a risk-based hierarchy of road users. Other changes include changes to priorities at junctions, new laws on the use of mobile phones, minimum overtaking distances and the introduction of speed limiters in new cars.
Credit: Highway Code
Cyclists given priority over drivers at junctions
For the first time, the law will require those who can do the greatest harm to others to have a higher level of responsibility to reduce the danger.
It means for example that 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.
It will have the biggest impact at junctions, with drivers having to ensure they do not cross the path of cyclists or horse riders.
Priority for pedestrians
Under the same change, road users at a junction should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which they are turning.
You should give way, the government says, “to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing”.
The law previously said that pedestrians and cyclists only had right of way when they were on the crossing.
More room must be left for cyclists
Another key amendment to the Highway Code will be clearer guidance for drivers to leave a minimum distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists.
There will also be a recommendation for car users to reduce the risk of opening a door into the path of a cyclist by using the hand on the opposite side to the door, as this will often lead to them looking over their shoulder.
Mobile phone loophole banned
Tougher laws on using your mobile phone while driving will come into force in 2022. It’s already illegal to call or text while driving, other than in an emergency.
New laws will ban drivers from using their phones to take photos or videos, scroll through playlists or play games.
Anyone caught using their hand-held device while driving will face a £200 fixed penalty notice and six points on their licence.
‘Hands-free’ devices such as a sat nav will still be able to be used if they are secured in a mount holder.
New £70 fines from councils
Local authorities are being given more powers to issue £70 fines against motorists.
Under ‘moving traffic’ offences, councils will be able to punish drivers for stopping in yellow box junctions and for performing bad manoeuvres.
Currently, most councils are only able to send out penalties for parking and driving in bus lanes.
Sleepy drivers risk unlimited fines
Drivers could be jailed or face unlimited fines if they don’t get enough sleep under the new Highway Code rules.
The altered Rule 91 falls within the fitness to drive category and refers to ensuring drivers get ‘sufficient sleep’.
However, under the tightened-up rules, tired drivers have also been told they shouldn’t use emergency areas or motorway hard shoulders to take a break.
Drivers who stop on the hard shoulder face a fine of up to £5,000, nine penalty points and a lengthy driving ban for careless driving if they cause an accident.
Speed limiters in new cars
To improve road safety, new cars will be fitted with speed limiters from July 6, 2022.
Intelligent Speed Assistance (ISA) uses GPS to work out what the speed limit is and will then ensure the car doesn’t break it.
ISAs will be mandatory for all new models given ‘type approval’ from July 6. This means it includes any new car brought to market from that date, rather than new cars already in production.
When are they coming into force?
Changes to the Highway Code will come into force on January 29 if they are approved by Parliament.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “The proposed upcoming changes to the Highway Code will improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.
“The department has established a working group of key organisations to ensure that messages about the changes are as widespread as possible and our well-established Think! campaign will continue to ensure all road users are aware both when these changes come into effect and beyond.”