New rules about pedestrian crossings

Did you know that the Highway Code is being updated? New amendments are set to come into force in January 2022 – and some of the chief changes concern pedestrian crossings.
If you’ve been driving for a while, you might find it tricky to adjust your motoring habits to take these new rules into account. But that could land you in legal trouble, or even cause an accident.
At Insurance Factory, we want to help you avoid any accidents and keep your driving record clean. So let’s take a look at the main changes, and why they’re being introduced.

And if you do get penalised for falling foul of the amended Highway Code, do contact us to arrange specialist convicted driver insurance.

Why are these amendments being introduced?

The changes aim to improve the safety of more vulnerable road users: namely, pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders. Children, elderly and disabled people are also highlighted throughout the Highway Code as being particularly at risk.
In fact, every year, around 430 pedestrians are killed on the UK’s roads. That figure dropped considerably in 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic led to a drastic reduction in road traffic.
Now, the government wants to “build back greener” from the pandemic, and achieve its target of net zero emissions by the year 2050.
In July 2020, the transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “Millions of us have found over the past year how cycling and walking are great ways to stay fit, ease congestion on the roads and do your bit for the environment. As we build back greener from the pandemic, we’re determined to keep that trend going by making active travel easier and safer for everyone.”
He announced new investments in infrastructure and other measures to encourage active travel, saying: “This £338 million package marks the start of what promises to be a great summer of cycling and walking, enabling more people to make those sustainable travel choices that make our air cleaner and cities greener.”
Part of that was a consultation about changes to the Highway Code, which has since concluded. The review was put before parliament on 1st December 2021 and is set to become law in late January 2022.

What is the ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’?

The overarching change is that a new section is being introduced to the Highway Code that creates a “hierarchy of road users” with “those most at risk in the event of a collision at the top.
In the amended Highway Code, you’ll find this section after the Introduction and before the more detailed road rules.
According to the new hierarchy: “Those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.”
That means that drivers of motorised vehicles – especially lorries, but also cars – must be considerate of vulnerable users such as cyclists, horse riders, and pedestrians. And cyclists should give way to pedestrians on shared use paths, and horse riders on bridleways.
So car drivers who think they’re kings or queens of the road could be in for a shock! But the hierarchy stresses that everyone, no matter how they are using the road, must behave responsibly.

What does this mean in practice?

The new Rule H2 elaborates on what this ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ means when it comes to pedestrian crossings. 
As is the case throughout the Highway Code, the words ‘must/ must not’ identify rules that are legal requirements. If you break these, you are committing an offence and can be penalised, probably with penalty points on your licence and a fine.
If the words ‘should/ should not’ or ‘do/ do not’ are used, then disobeying that rule is not an offence in itself. However, if you don’t abide by these rules and you’re in a collision, this could be used to establish your liability in court.
Rule H2 states: “At a junction you should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning. You MUST give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing (see Rule 195).
“Pedestrians have priority when on a zebra crossing, on a parallel crossing or at light controlled crossings when they have a green signal.
“You should give way to pedestrians waiting to cross a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross a parallel crossing.”
Some of this is new – and it’s explained more thoroughly in Rule 195, which we’ll look at now.

What are the rules in detail?

So Rule 195 in the Highway Code has been expanded. It now applies not only to zebra crossings for pedestrians, but also parallel crossings which serve both pedestrians and cyclists.
As before, motorists must give way to pedestrians (and now cyclists, too) who have moved onto the crossing.
But in the updated Highway Code, drivers are told they should also look out for pedestrians and cyclists approaching the crossing, and give way to those who are waiting to cross.
They should also be patient while waiting, and not use their horn or flash their lights to indicate to pedestrians that they should cross as this could be a danger to other drivers.
Rule 192 has also been expanded. Previously, it stated that drivers in queueing traffic should keep crossings clear; now, it adds that they should not enter crossings unless they are able to clear them completely.
If you’re a generally courteous and considerate driver, you might be puzzled at this point, wondering what’s really new.
Perhaps you’ve always regarded the habits listed above as good driving practice - and you’d be absolutely right! These changes are aimed at strengthening pedestrian priority, rather than creating any new motoring offences.
But if you fail to follow these rules and are in a collision, you might end up with a penalty for a motoring offence. You’re likely to need specialist convicted driver insurance to get back behind the wheel.

Pedestrians crossing at junctions

Of course, it’s not only at zebra crossings that pedestrians and drivers can end up in potentially dangerous positions or angry stand-offs!
The updated Highway Code elaborates on Rule 170, which concerns pedestrians and other road users who are crossing at junctions without signals, e.g. where a side road meets the main road.

Up until now, motorists had to give priority to pedestrians who had already started to cross a road they wanted to turn into. But now, the rule states that motorists should also: “Give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning.”
Of course, pedestrians need to look before they cross the road, too. But if you’re a driver, you shouldn’t just nip into a side road when there’s a gap in the traffic – you need to make sure there’s nobody waiting to cross first.
That should make it easier for pedestrians to get swiftly and smoothly from point A to point B, without having to endure lengthy waits at junctions. And that could encourage more people to walk, especially for shorter distances.

Are there any other changes?

The revised Highway Code also contains several new provisions aimed at protecting cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders. We don’t have space to explain them all here, but here are some of the main ones.
There’s new guidance on safely overtaking any of the above. Previously, drivers were simply advised to give cyclists and others at least as much room as they would a car. In the revised version, motorists are told they should allow cyclists at least 1.5 metres space, horse riders two metres, and pedestrians (e.g. those walking on roads with no pavements) two metres.
You should increase these distances and take extra care if travelling at high speed, in bad weather, or at night. If it’s not possible to give these road users this much space, you should wait behind them.
There’s also an amendment to Rule 211, which now states: “Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause the cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve, just as you would do with a motor vehicle.”
The updated Highway Code also tells drivers they should use what’s become known as the “Dutch reach” when parked and opening their doors into the road. This involves using the hand on the opposite side of your body, automatically twisting your body round so you get a better view of any cyclists coming up behind you.
It’s a simple yet surprisingly effective way to keep you and cyclists safe – try it out for yourself!
In fact, why not take half an hour to read through all the amendments and make sure you’ve understood them? It’s a good idea to brush up on your Highway Code from time to time, especially if it’s a while since you passed your test. It helps keep all road users safe, and your driving record spotless.

What does this mean for drivers?

The revisions have been broadly welcomed, including by motoring organisations. However, there are concerns that many drivers are unaware of the forthcoming changes.
The RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “These proposals should make cycling and walking safer, and this is to be welcomed.
“A concerted effort must now be made to communicate the changes to drivers because as we know, many do not read the Highway Code for long periods after passing their test.
“Ultimately, the aim should be to ensure that everyone using the roads understands the new rules, because any confusion is likely to lead to avoidable collisions.”
If you’re in an accident, it can be a terrible shock. Even if you and other road users are unharmed, you’re likely to face penalties such as a fine and points on your licence. You might then struggle to get insurance to get back on the road legally and safely.
At Insurance Factory, we specialise in arranging cover for drivers who’ve been convicted of motoring offences. Contact us for a quote for convicted driver insurance today.

What action can I take?

As the responsibility for collisions shifts towards motorists, you should take more care than ever to ensure that your driving habits don’t put yourself and others at risk.
Many of these amendments have been practised by considerate drivers for years, even though they weren’t laid down in the Highway Code. So you could brush up your driving skills by taking an advanced motoring course.
Remember: 40% of all motoring accidents happen after dark, even though there’s less traffic on the roads at these times. We’ve put together some top tips on driving safely at night.
And if the worst happens and you are involved in an accident, do you know what action to take? Take a look at our guide to what to do after an accident to help you keep a clear head.
Otherwise, you could end up panicking and driving off, which could land you in deeper trouble with the law. Convicted driver insurance arranged through Insurance Factory could help you get back on the road.
Or, if you’re worried that you could be held liable for an accident that wasn’t your fault, how about installing a dash cam? You can fit these to both your front and rear windscreens, and they’ll start automatically when you turn the key in the ignition.
Dash cams record your entire journey and date stamp it in a tamper-proof way, so it can help resolve disputes over who was liable in the case of an accident.

Get a quote from Insurance Factory today

Driving is a complicated business, and a simple mistake can cause a collision.
If you’ve been convicted of a driving offence, you might struggle to find affordable insurance cover that meets your needs. So talk to us at Insurance Factory: we’re specialists in arranging convicted driver insurance.
We will look at your circumstances without judgement, and search our panel of UK insurers to find policies to suit you. We can arrange flexible payment options, too.
Get a quote today.

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