Weekly Roundup: 5th September (2)

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Buckle up Britain! A recent survey shows 61% of drivers haven’t read the new Highway Code rules.

Chelsey Stanborough

In January this year, the Highway Code was updated, bringing in eight changes that included a new hierarchy for pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and drivers on UK roads, as well as changes to the rules surrounding junctions and overtaking. The chief executive of road safety charity Brake highlighted the importance of the changes as protecting those most at risk. Yet since the rules were introduced, a survey from Accident Assist has shown that out of over 13,000 participants, 8,090 of drivers hadn’t read the changes.

What impact does this have on the legal world? Well, it’s a little tricky, because the Highway Code is generally understood to be an advisory document, meaning it isn’t legally binding. Of course, there are a few legal requirements, drivers using their phones behind the wheel, or death by dangerous driving can result in prison time. In fact, you can distinguish the rules in the HC through terminology: the words ‘must’ and ‘must not’ are legal requirements, whereas the words ‘should’ or ‘should not’ are advisory. However, the majority of the non-legal requirements can be used in courts to establish liability of personal injury claims. Specialist solicitors at Gregory Abrams Davidson state “it is certainly foreseeable that the prospects of establishing negligence against drivers of larger vehicles will be increased by this change.

Looking at the bigger picture in practice, the duty of care for road users has been set by new hierarchy in the HC. In the event of a collision, the most dangerous may well be held liable. Personal injury claims and criminal justice demand may see a rise as concerns raised by the Alliance of British Drivers illuminate “the rule changes are likely to increase road rage incidents and confusion amongst all road users.” Particularly if three fifths haven’t looked at them! Treat this as a dual purpose read: for commercial awareness and a reminder to give those new Highway Code rules a read yourself.