Welsh motorists at risk of hefty fines due to Highway Code changes
Recent research shows almost three-quarters of drivers in Wales could be at risk of £1000 fines following significant changes to The Highway Code
A worrying 73% of surveyed drivers within Wales failed to identify the changes to the rules, leaving them at significant risk of prosecution, according to the new study from leading consumer legal services company, Slater and Gordon (S+G),
The research also shows that only 51% of those surveyed are aware that the rules were changing at all.
Of those who were aware of the changes, one third of Welsh drivers (38%) still believed they had right of way to turn into a road, even if a pedestrian was waiting to cross that road, meaning they would be liable in the event of an accident.
More than one in five (21%) believe that under the new rules, pedestrians are to be placed at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Additionally, 21% admit to not having looked at the Highway Code in at least a decade.
The changes to the Highway Code were introduced on 29 January and failure to comply could land motorists with increased fines. While some of the rules are classed as advisory, drivers could be stopped by police for careless or even dangerous driving, incurring potential penalties including 3-11 penalty points, two years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine and obligatory disqualification from driving.
The biggest changes to the Highway Code involve the establishment of a hierarchy of users, new rules giving priority to pedestrians at junctions, and new rules giving priority to cyclists and horses when cars are turning along with guidance on passing distances.
Rule H1 creates a new hierarchy of road users and “ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.”
While this does not give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, it is intended “to ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users.”
Additionally, Rule H2 means that drivers should give way “to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing,” which is a change from the previous law which said that pedestrians and cyclists only had right of way once they were on the crossing.
Rule H3 sets down priority for cyclists and horse riders when cars are turning. This is designed to mitigate against accidents and near-misses at junctions and states that drivers “should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse drawn vehicles going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane, just as you would not turn across the path of another motor vehicle.”
The wording of rules regarding passing distances has also been amended to clarify guidelines for overtaking pedestrians, cyclists and horses. It now advises motorists to:
- Leave a minimum distance of 1.5m at speeds under 30mph.
- Leave a minimum distance of two metres at speeds over 30mph.
- Always leave a distance of at least two metres if driving a large vehicle.
- Pass horses and horse-drawn vehicles at speeds under 15mph and at a minimum distance of two metres.
- Allow two metres of distance when passing a pedestrian who is walking in the road.
- Wait behind the motorcyclist, cyclist, horse rider, horse drawn vehicle or pedestrian and not overtake if it is unsafe or not possible to meet these clearances.
Tracey Benson, Head of Serious Injury at Slater and Gordon, urged drivers to keep up to date with the changes and not risk injury or fines through complacency.
She said “The changes to the Highway Code help to protect all road users by granting the most priority to the most vulnerable users. As pedestrians are more likely to suffer serious injury, they are now placed at the top
“The changes together with the fines it is hoped will raise awareness and lead to a decrease in serious injuries and fatalities on our roads. The increased danger comes from a lack of awareness of these significant changes.
“It’s essential to stay up to date with the Highway Code, no matter how long you’ve been driving and not to be complacent.”
Groups such as Cycling UK and the AA have described the lack of public awareness as “frustrating” and blamed the government for being “far too silent in promoting them”, although the new rules have been broadly welcomed by cyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders.
A full list of the changes can be found here
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