Changes To the Highway Code

The Highway Code has been updated with new rules for all types of road users. The rules implemented from the 29th January have been put into place to improve the safety of people walking, cycling and riding horses. These new rules will affect all road users including current learner drivers and driving instructors. As a professional instructor it is important to stay up to date with the Highway Code as well as it being equally as important for learners to check the code regularly, even after they have passed their final practical driving test.

Hierarchy of Road Users

The new high way code now has a ‘hierarchy of road users’

The Hierarchy of road users is the concept that there are certain users that are more at risk in the event of a collision, they are placed at the top of the hierarchy. The idea is that the users that can do the greatest harm e.g., lorry drivers, have more responsibility to reduce the danger they can cause and avoid hurting others.

The users at the top of the hierarchy and at more at risk are; pedestrians (specifically children, older adults and disabled people), cyclists, motorcyclists, horse riders and cars. Larger, heavier vehicles, such as lorry’s, vans and buses are at the bottom of the pyramid.

However, none of this takes away from the fact that ALL road users have a responsibility to regard for their own and other road users’ safety. This includes people at the top of the hierarchy e.g., Pedestrians and cyclists.

Junction priority

The Highway Code has made it clear that pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions.

This means that if you are turning at a junction, you must not cut across cyclists, just as you wouldn’t cut across another vehicle. This rule also means that, if there is a pedestrian who is crossing or waiting to cross the road at a junction, vehicles should be giving them way to cross.

If an incident does occur in this situation, the responsibility will fall onto the person who can do the greatest harm (users further down the hierarchy) – meaning as a driver, the responsibility is likely to fall onto you rather than the other, more vulnerable road users (pedestrian/cyclist).


Vehicles need to leave a minimum of 1.5 meters when overtaking cyclists who are at speeds of up to 30mph and at least 2 meters when overtaking at higher speeds than 30mph as well as people riding a horse or driving a horse drawn vehicle at speeds under 10mph. The new rule also confirms that cyclists can filter through traffic, meaning they may overtake slower moving traffic on their right or left but are advised to take caution when doing so.

Dutch Reach

The updated Highway Code encourages people driving vehicles to open their car doors with the hand that is furthest away from the door. This will help to ensure people look over their shoulder, behind them to see if people are cycling or walking nearby and therefore reduce the chance of injury when opening the door.

Cyclists can ride wherever they feel safest

The update also states that people cycling may ride anywhere that they feel more visible and safer. This means that cyclists may ride in the centre of the road whilst allowing vehicles to overtake them when it is safe to do so.

Pedestrians crossing in the road

Vehicles need to allow at least 2 meters of space and keep to a low speed when passing a pedestrian who is crossing/walking in the road. Drivers should also be giving way to pedestrians who are waiting to cross at the zebra crossing, this is the same for pedestrians and cyclists waiting to cross at a parallel crossing.

Changes to how the practical test is assessed

As most of these changes are reinforcing good driving behaviour, they will not alter how the driving test is assessed directly. However, the changes will be taken into account when deciding on whether a student should pass or not.

For example, the rule that states that you should give way to people crossing or waiting to cross at a junction (the new H2 rule), will be one that will be considered during a driving test, as this applies to people driving or riding a motorcycle to take care of those higher up the hierarchy.

However, driving examiners are aware that it will take time for everyone to adapt to these new changes. Examiners will be taking these factors into account as people are still becoming aware and learning about the new changes. Your 4 Wheelz Driving instructor will be ready to support existing leaners to help them adjust to the new rules.

4 Wheelz is a driving school based in the West Midlands which can help you prepare for your driving test and help to support you if you are concerned about the new changes to the Highway Code. You can give us a call on 0333 444 1064 and our friendly team will be able to assist you.