Teaching the young people of Britain to drive is a big responsibility and, as their teacher, it’s really important that you keep up with the rules outlined in the Highway Code. The rules are there for a reason, and when they’re adhered to, there’s a reduced chance of accidents and crashes occurring.
The Highway Code is a necessary document that contains rules all drivers should follow to keep themselves, other drivers and members of the public safe. The code was created in 1931, but a lot has changed since people were driving then. This is why it is regularly updated to reflect modern driving, and the government has just announced some changes to the Highway Code for 2021.
What has changed in the Highway Code?
Below, you can find out exactly what’s changed so you can alter your driving instruction methods accordingly.
1. New hierarchy of road users
Introducing a new priority hierarchy was at the top of the government’s agenda when updating the code. The new Highway Code rules show that responsibility is on the person or vehicle that can cause the most damage.
For instance, a car could do more damage to a cyclist, and a lorry more damage to a car. This change came about from haulage and freight companies who had expressed concerns that the blame would always be on them. Now, this won’t automatically be the case.
The government has stated that everyone should continue to behave responsibly when driving, even with the new hierarchy system in place.
2. Pedestrians’ and cyclists’ right of way
As well as creating a more hierarchical system for all road users, the government also looked at some worries that had been raised around pedestrians. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that more people than before are choosing to walk and cycle to get from A to B.
Now, drivers must give way to pedestrians at a zebra crossing. While this was generally thought to be the norm anyway, it was never identified as such in the code.
Drivers will also need to check that there are no cyclists, pedestrians or horse-and-riders at a junction, either waiting to cross or approaching and about to cross. In this instance, the driver should give way to them. This is also the case for cyclists or horse-and-riders who are on the road and pulling out of the junction themselves.
We think we’d all agree that cyclists can be tricky to manoeuver around, especially for learner drivers who don’t yet have the confidence to overtake on busy roads in a safe way. A lot of the recent changes to the Highway Code involved cyclists and how they can safely share the roads with drivers.
For instance, a new clearance system will be put in place for overtaking. When a car is travelling under 30mph, it must give a cyclist at least 1.5 metres space, and this increases to 2 metres when travelling over 30mph.
For horses and pedestrians, they should be given a clearance of 2 metres at all times and horses should be passed at 15mph. This is an excellent change to the code that could prevent horses from being spooked and causing an accident.
4. Mobile phone usage
While it’s already illegal to call or text while driving, there has been a fuzzy grey area that has previously left drivers unclear as to whether taking photos or scrolling through playlists is illegal.
From 2022, this loophole has been fixed, and so you will be fined for taking photos or videos, scrolling through Spotify or playing games. Anyone caught using a mobile, no matter what they’re doing with it, will receive a £200 fine.
‘Hands-free’ devices, like a sat nav, can still be used in their mount
5. New fines for certain driving offences
Local authorities, such as a local council, will be able to issue £70 fines to motorists under the ‘moving traffic’ offences. They could fine you for stopping in yellow box junctions or performing bad/dangerous manoeuvres, whereas previously, they’ve only been able to send out parking fines and tickets.
6. New car speed limiters
From 6th July 2022, new cars will all be fitted with speed limiters. These systems, known as Intelligent Speed Assistance, use GPS to know what the speed limit is and to ensure the car doesn’t go over it.
7. Tiredness and driving
Rule 91 of the Highway Code has been updated to ensure maximum safety for those who drive at night or for a long time. The code now states that drivers should get a good amount of sleep before setting off on such a journey (i.e. if you know you’ll be driving at night, you should sleep a bit in the day or the evening prior to setting off).
It also says that emergency areas and hard shoulders can’t be used to stop for a sleep should you feel tired. For this reason, you may need to plan ahead and pull over at a proper service station.
Tailgating (being too close to the car in front) can happen by accident, but it can also be a form of road rage. The Highway Code has been updated to reflect just how dangerous tailgating is, why it occurs and how a driver can avoid it.
It reinforces that tailgating can be considered a driving offence and you may be stopped by the police should they witness it. The code also reminds drivers that safe driving distances will increase in certain driving conditions (such as by 10 times in icy weather).
9. Take a charged mobile phone
Rule 97 has always reminded drivers to carry a valid licence, have car insurance and drive vehicles that are legal and roadworthy. But there’s been an interesting amendment to Rule 97 around carrying a charged mobile phone.
Should an incident occur, a mobile phone is a necessity, and so the code has changed to state that your phone should be charged and contain emergency numbers. It now also says that you should take high-visibility clothing in the car with you should you break down or crash in a dangerous location.
10. Safe stopping
There is a brand new rule in place around stopping in safe places and what a ‘place of relative safety’ is. The code explains that a place of relative safety includes one where:
- There isn’t much moving traffic
- There are proper parking spaces to use
Lay-bys, emergency areas and hard shoulders all come under these two rules, but the code says that hard shoulders are a more risky place to stop.
11. Contacting the emergency services
Parts of the Highway Code have also been updated to reflect the importance of understanding how to call the emergency services.
Rule 279 has been changed to state that drivers who are deaf, hard or hearing or speech impaired can call in an emergency using the special text or SMS service. Also, as an alternative to calling 999, some vehicles contain an SOS button so the car can call them for you.
We’ve run through some of the most important and notable changes in this guide, but there are a total of 33 amended rules. To view all of these in more detail, you can take a look at the government website.
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