01 Jan 2024

Exploring the Highway Code Changes

By Karen Hayes

The Highway Code serves as a crucial set of rules and guidelines for all road users in the United Kingdom and helps to ensure the safety and efficiency of our roads. In 2022, several significant changes were made to the Highway Code, impacting both motorists and pedestrians.  Uniquely specialising in representing people with Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI),  Coulthursts stays up to date with these modifications to effectively advise our clients involved in Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) and related legal matters. Brain injury solicitor Karen Hayes explores the key changes introduced to the Highway Code and discusses the implications.

  1. Introduction of the ‘Dutch Reach’: One of the notable additions to the Highway Code in 2022 was the introduction of the ‘Dutch Reach.’ This technique involves using the hand furthest from the door (usually the left hand for UK drivers) to open car doors. By adopting this method, motorists are encouraged to check for cyclists and other vulnerable road users before exiting their vehicles. This change can impact cases involving ‘car door accidents’.
  2. Priority for pedestrians and cyclists at junctions: To promote active travel and enhance safety for pedestrians and cyclists, the 2022 Highway Code update introduced a change in priority at junctions.  This change was codifying the stance the Courts have taken for a long time in dealing with these vulnerable road users who are the people most likely to sustain a serious TBI in the event of an RTA. Motorists are therefore now expected to give way to pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross or turning into their path. This shift could have implications for us handling cases involving accidents at junctions and potential disputes regarding right of way.
  3. Increased penalties for mobile phone use while driving: With the aim of deterring distracted driving, the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving were significantly increased in 2022. Offenders can now face higher fines, more penalty points on their driving license, and even disqualification from driving in severe cases. Coulthursts is well-versed in the updated penalties and can provide accurate advice to our TBI clients.
  4. Guidance on safe passing distances: To enhance safety for vulnerable road users, the updated Highway Code provided clearer guidance on safe passing distances. Motorists are now advised to leave a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when passing cyclists and horse riders, where possible. This change emphasizes the duty of care drivers owe to these vulnerable road users and may have implications when representing injured cyclists or horse riders who sustain a TBI after being involved in accidents.
  5. New guidance for electric vehicle drivers: Given the increasing popularity of electric vehicles (EVs), the 2022 Highway Code update included specific guidance for EV drivers. It covers topics such as charging etiquette, parking considerations, and the importance of ensuring vehicles are left in a safe state while charging. We may encounter cases involving EV-related incidents or disputes, and familiarity with these guidelines will be invaluable in providing accurate legal advice.

As solicitors, it is crucial to remain informed about the changes introduced in the Highway Code, as they directly impact the legal landscape surrounding road traffic accidents and related matters. By understanding the 2022 modifications, such as the ‘Dutch Reach,’ revised priority at junctions, increased penalties for mobile phone use, guidance on safe passing distances, and specific guidelines for electric vehicle drivers, Coulthursts can effectively navigate and advocate for clients with TBI in these evolving legal scenarios.

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