UK

Drivers doubt Highway Code update boosted pedestrians’ safety – poll

The Highway Code, which contains advice and rules for people using Britain’s roads, was amended to provide more protection for vulnerable road users.

Fewer than a fifth (18%) of drivers think Highway Code changes made two years ago have improved safety for pedestrians, a survey suggests
Pedestrians crossing a road in Manchester Fewer than a fifth (18%) of drivers think Highway Code changes made two years ago have improved safety for pedestrians, a survey suggests (Alamy Stock Photo)

Fewer than a fifth (18%) of drivers think Highway Code changes made two years ago improved safety for pedestrians, a survey suggests.

The poll of 2,500 UK drivers commissioned by the RAC also indicated that 31% think pedestrians face even greater danger at junctions since the amendments.

The Highway Code, which contains advice and rules for people using Britain’s roads, was amended by the Department for Transport (DfT) on January 29 2022 to provide more protection for vulnerable road users.

It stated that traffic turning at junctions should give way when pedestrians are crossing or waiting to cross the road.

Less than a quarter (23%) of respondents to the RAC survey said they always do this, while 19% admitted they do not stop very often and 6% said they never do.

The Government’s latest road casualty statistics show 30% of pedestrian fatalities on Britain’s roads occur at junctions.

Other changes to the Highway Code included the creation of a hierarchy of road users meaning someone driving has more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.

There was also advice for cyclists to make themselves as visible as possible by riding in the centre of lanes on quieter roads, in slower-moving traffic and when approaching junctions.

A report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee in November 2023 warned that messaging around Highway Code changes were not communicated effectively enough to encourage public participation.

The RAC poll also indicated that 37% of drivers aged 17 to 24 think the amendments have made roads safer for vulnerable users, compared with just 13% of those aged 65 and above.

RAC road safety spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “When initially introduced, we welcomed the major Highway Code changes because they were set to make the roads much safer for the most vulnerable users.

“However, two years on, it’s concerning to see there’s still so much uncertainty, with most drivers not stopping for people crossing when they should and therefore many pedestrians seeing no change to their safety at junctions.

“Part of the reason may be that drivers simply don’t know that the changes have been made, least of all the consequences of ignoring them.

“Most drivers probably rarely refer to the Highway Code once they’ve passed their tests, and that’s where the problem could lie.

“We urge motorists to take another close look at the changes – either by visiting the Highway Code or RAC websites, or by picking up a printed copy.

“We’d also urge the Government to make another concerted effort in communicating the changes to all road users.”

A DfT spokesman said: “All road users must feel confident using our roads which is why we made sure the changes to the Highway Code were directly informed by a public consultation with over 20,000 responses.

“To increase awareness of the changes, we have used our Think! campaign to increase awareness and understanding of the changes over the last two years.”

– The RAC’s survey was conducted by research company Online95 in March 2023. It was weighted to be nationally representative.