Important new Highway Code updates to be aware of, especially in the winter
To pass your driving test, you must know the Highway Code well, but how often do you check for new regulations? There are recent changes to take into consideration, and these came into effect in 2022 and should be observed by all road users
Rule H1 (Danger on the Road)
This means that motorbike, car, van or lorry drivers are the ones that cause the most significant harm in the unfortunate event of an accident and that they always bear the most responsibility when it comes to taking care of and reducing dangers to others around them.
Rule H2 (Pedestrians Crossing)
This code highlights junctions and drivers should always give way to pedestrians waiting to cross or crossing a road into which they are turning. Once pedestrians have started crossing the road, they have first priority, and you should give way to them. On a zebra or parallel crossing, drivers, including motorcyclists and cyclists, must always give way to the pedestrians waiting to cross the road.
Rule H3 (Cyclists Priority)
This new rule highlights the important new priority that cyclists and horse riders have when approaching vehicles or motorcycles are turning. When a vehicle is turning at a junction, changing direction, or changing lane, you are not allowed to cut across vulnerable road users, cyclists, disabled scooters, and horse riders, instead, you should always give way, regardless of whether they are in a cycle lane, or riding ahead on the road.
Cycling, Walking and Riding in Shared Spaces
Highway Code guidance is now saying that cyclists and horse riders should also respect the safety of people walking in areas. Similarly, pedestrians should take care not to obstruct the path of cyclists or horse riders. Also, it is always important to bear in mind that some people could be visually impaired or hard of hearing, so always take care when riding in shared spaces.
Cyclists’ Position on the Road
The 2022 Highway Code sets guidance concerning a cyclist’s position when on the road. Riders can only cycle in the centre of the road on quiet roads, in slow-moving traffic or on very narrow roads. Cyclists should never cycle toward the middle of the lane under any other circumstances, such as fast-moving highways, country roads or roads with many bends and turns; this could put themselves and other road users in danger.
Overtaking a Cyclist when Driving a Vehicle
This is a controversial area in which clarity is due to what to do when overtaking cyclists when driving a moving vehicle. This new Highway Code update is now saying that drivers may only cross the double white lines in the centre of the road in order to overtake cyclists or horse riders, but they should be driving at less than 10 mph and only when safe to do so. The update also clarifies the different distances you are allowed as a driver to pass cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians (in the absence of pavement):
- 5ft (1.5-meters) when passing a cyclist going up to 30 mph
- 6.5ft (2-meters) when passing a horse rider going under 10 mph
- 6.5ft (2-meters) when passing pedestrians on the road if there is no pavement
Parking and Charging Recommendations
The updated 2022 Highway Code recommends a new technique to apply when exiting a car, called “Dutch Reach” this consists of using the left hand to open the right-hand door, and, similarly, the right hand to open the left-hand door. This will ensure the door does not open fully, allowing drivers to turn around and look for cyclists or pedestrians passing by, and reducing the risk of injury to them from an open door. The update also explains how an electric charging cable should be used, recommending drivers park close to the charging point to avoid charging cables becoming hazardous for pedestrians. By displaying a warning sign whenever possible and once the charging has finished, neatly return the charging cables for others to use to avoid creating an obstacle for other road users.
Winter driving conditions and Highways Codes covering them
If you have not cleared your windows from snow and ice before setting off on a journey, you could be pulled over and risk a £1000 fine. You must make sure that all snow is cleared from the vehicle, as if you stop suddenly, the snow on the top of the car can fall onto the windscreen and again cause visibility problems.
Driving lights and light bulbs
Most modern cars will have daytime running lights fitted as standard and possibly a sensor that will turn on lights automatically in dim conditions. Still, if you do not have either of these, it is essential to manually switch on your headlights as if caught in dark/wintery conditions without visibility to other road users could land you a fine. It is worth checking your lights before setting off, as a blown bulb without your knowledge is no excuse. This carries a £100 on-the-spot fine per bulb and 3 points on your licence.
In the winter, it is even more critical to make sure that your tyres are in good condition and over the legal 1.6mm tread depth limit. With the onset of ice and snow, you could likely be in an area where ice could compact the tyre tread and make driving very dangerous. If you live in an area where this happens every year, it is wise to invest in winter tyres or snow socks, but most important is the depth of tread left on your tyres.
If they are getting low, it is best to change them now rather than wait until the spring. Most tyre suppliers would recommend a change of tyre at 3mm. It is also wise to ensure they are properly inflated, as low or high inflation can cause skidding issues. The fines are approximately £2,500 per tyre and 3 points in your licence, so effectively, you could be looking at a £10,000 fine and 12 points on your licence, incurring a ban if all 4 tyres on your car are in poor condition.
Windscreen condition, wipers, and washer fluid
You should check your windscreen wipers often, as they are made of rubber and will perish over time. They are checked on your MOT and can be a reason for failure. If you have a relatively new car and it is not due for an MOT until it is 3 years old, then it is imperative to ensure they are checked regularly. If they do not clear your screen fully, they can be illegal. This can carry a fine of £2,500 and 3 points on your licence; if you do not have them changed and are caught again, it could land you a 6-month ban. It is also vital to ensure that you have enough washer fluid for your journey.
Your vehicle is considered unsafe if you are stuck in heavy traffic and cannot clean your screen from the dirty water from the road and vehicles in front. Any crack or chip that lies in the line of sight on your windscreen while driving will be an MOT failure, but as this is only once a year, getting any chip or crack repaired as quickly as possible is important. If you have a tiny crack or chip in your screen, it is important to know that it could well spread across the screen when defrosting. Most insurances have windscreen cover, and you must make sure your windscreen is in good clean condition, especially on icy roads.
Reading the Highway Code and observing any new regulations is key to safe driving, so make this a habit at least once a year. Not understanding or not following the new regulations can land you in trouble.