DfT launches Highway Code awareness campaign

The Government’s THINK! campaign is about to launch a £500,000 communications drive, to raise awareness of changes to the Highway Code, so road-users across the country understand their responsibilities. The campaign will run across radio and social media channels, with further campaign activity to follow later in the summer.

The changes are set to come into effect from Saturday 29th January 2022. If approved by Parliament, a hierarchy of road-users will be introduced this weekend, designed to mean quicker or heavier modes of travel have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others on the road.

Cyclists will also receive fresh guidance to ride in the centre of a lane on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and at the approach to junctions in order to make themselves as clearly visible as possible. They’ll also be reminded they can ride two abreast – as has always been the case and which can be safer in large groups or with children – but they must be aware of drivers behind them and allow them to overtake if it is safe to do so.

Meanwhile motorists will be encouraged to adopt the so-called ‘Dutch Reach’, opening the door next to them with the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder, meaning they’re less likely to injure passing cyclists and pedestrians.

The new updates are advisory, so non-compliance will not result in a fine.

Roads Minister, Baroness Vere, said: “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.

“These updates to The Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road-users know the rules of the road.”

The Government initially announced the detail of the incoming updates to The Highway Code to national media last summer. They follow a public consultation where nearly 21,000 people submitted their views, which the Government says saw the majority support every single one of the changes.

The Department for Transport says it engaged with key stakeholders while developing the changes, and a Highway Code Communications Working Group has been established, with industry working alongside Government to raise awareness.

The changes will be made to the digital version of The Highway Code this weekend, followed by an update to the printed version which is due to be published in April 2022.

Active Travel Commissioner for England, Chris Boardman, said: ‘It shouldn’t take bravery to cross a road or ride to school with kids but sometimes it feels that way. These changes to the highway code clarify our responsibility to each other and simply reinforce what good road users already do. This refresh does more than offer guidance though, it makes our towns, cities and villages nicer places to live.”

The Government says it recognises the importance of The Highway Code keeping pace with the way in which people get about as well as with changes to transport infrastructure. For example, the updates recognise new cycle-friendly signals and cycle junctions, so people know how to use modern carriageways. Cyclists are also encouraged to consider training in order to have the skills, knowledge and confidence to ride safely and responsibly on the road. Last year, the Transport Secretary provided £18 million for Bikeability cycle training for children and families.

Emily Cherry, Chief Executive at The Bikeability Trust said: “We welcome these changes to the Highway Code because they encourage all road users to share their space, whilst protecting the most vulnerable.

“Millions of children in England have been taught how to interact positively with other road users, thanks to Bikeability cycle training. We are pleased the updated Highway Code will now reflect the lessons we already teach children and help the next generation grow up as confident, competent and courteous road users.”

RAC Head of Roads Policy Nicholas Lyes said: “These major changes to the Highway Code should make the roads safer for the most vulnerable road users, in particular those walking and cycling, so are to be welcomed. But it’s vitally important that all road users – especially drivers – take the time to fully understand what’s new as some of the changes are a significant departure from what’s gone before. For instance, drivers turning into a road should now give way to any pedestrians waiting to cross.”

As part of their work to improve road safety even further, the Department for Transport also recently announced plans to change the laws around using handheld mobile phones while driving. They will be made stricter later this year, making virtually any use of them behind the wheel illegal, with those caught breaking the law potentially facing 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.

(Picture – Yay Images)

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