Need to promote Highway Code changes
New changes to the Highway Code should be introduced at the end of January, but there is concern that not enough has been done to communicate the changes to UK road users.
The latest revision of the Highway Code is not being communicated through official channels. While the Highway Code should change for the better, these changes will be of limited benefit if most road users are not aware of them.
Following an extensive consultation on how to improve the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders (vulnerable road users) the changes were laid as a Statutory Instrument in Parliament on 1st December 2021.
The Highway Code update will include a new hierarchy of road user. For the first time in Britain the law will recognise that those who pose the greatest risk on our roads to others have a higher level of responsibility. This means someone cycling will have greater responsibility to look out for people walking, while someone driving would have greater responsibility to look out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.
Other key amendments in the new Highway Code include:
- clearer guidance for drivers overtaking people cycling to give at least 1.5m;
- guidance on how drivers and passenger can prevent ‘car-dooring’ cyclists by using the Dutch Reach;
- Simplification on rules related to non-signalised junctions to prevent “left-hook” collisions, bringing Britain in line with similar laws on the European continent.
Unless the public is educated about the changes there is the potential for conflict that comes from a lack of awareness of the Highway Code. This could put vulnerable road users at unnecessary risk.
Tackling Road Injustice
Based on an article at www.cyclinguk.org
Seven years after promising to review road traffic offences and penalties, the Government has confirmed that it is "scoping out" a call for evidence on parts of the Road Traffic Act. In other words, it is no longer just "considering" carrying out the review of road traffic offences and penalties that it promised in 2014 - it is now actively working on it.
This change follows three debates in Parliament relating to road traffic offences and penalties. A Lords debate on 'Road Justice' on 8 November was followed on 15 November by two parliamentary petition debates (‘Tougher sentences for hit and run drivers who cause death' and 'Ryan's Law: Widen definition of 'death by dangerous driving''), both of which had been launched by the bereaved families of young men who had been killed by 'hit-and-run' drivers.
Key concerns that were raised included:
- The lack of clarification and consistency on the definitions and sentences for 'careless and dangerous' driving offences;
- The legal system's over-reliance on custodial sentences for these and other offences, and its under-use of driving bans - addressing this might well lead to jurors and others being more likely to apply the definitions of 'careless' and 'dangerous' driving correctly;
- The absurd ease with which convicted drivers are regularly able to evade driving bans by claiming that this would cause 'exceptional hardship';
- Inadequate penalties for ‘hit-and-run' offences where a driver doesn't just scratch someone else's parked car, but potentially leaves a victim to die in the road;
- Equally inadequate penalties for 'car-dooring' offences where these cause serious or fatal injury.
One positive outcome of the debates was in ministerial responses which indicated an openness to consider strengthening the maximum penalty for 'hit-and-run' offences where the driver or rider knew (or reasonably ought to have known) that they had been in a collision that resulted (or could have resulted) in serious or fatal injuries.
All too often, it seems that drivers involved in hit-and-run offences are trying to avoid being caught because they were driving while uninsured, unlicensed, disqualified, drunk or on drugs. However the upshot is that they leave their victims to die in the road when, in some cases, their lives might have been saved if the driver had called the emergency services straight away.