Updates to the Highway Code recently introduced that motorists might not know

Originally Published: March 2022
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Drivers are being warned about eleven new and updated highway laws that could catch them out.

The motoring experts at LeaseCar.uk have revealed some of the lesser known, recently introduced rules that motorists might not know.

Updated regulations range from it being legally required to get a good night’s sleep before embarking on big journeys, to now having to leave much larger gaps between vehicles on icy roads.

Other updates include safety measures and on motorways, reiterating sensible driving, and a ‘hierarchy of road users’, which prioritises pedestrians and cyclists over all other road users.

A spokesperson for LeaseCar.uk said: “Every sensible motorist knows that exceeding the speed limit and drink driving is illegal and dangerous.

“Many won’t realise, though, that new rules are constantly being added to the Highway Code. Their amends are usually quite straightforward, but the reminder never hurts.

“The laws make being a road user safer and it’s important for every driver to understand the updates. The Highway Code has more than 300 rules and many people don’t give the 150-page book a second thought after passing their theory test.

“Some of their recent amendments, like asking drivers to ‘focus on the road ahead when passing an incident’ are generally common sense, but it’s better to be written down.

“Acknowledging, applying and sharing these new and updated rules could save a life.”

LeaseCar.uk’s reminder of new Highway Code rules to note:

  1. Awareness of stopping distance is crucial for any driver, but especially those who travel on fast roads. The gap should be doubled on wet roads, but an update to the rules means drivers should leave a gap up to ten times greater when travelling at high speeds on icy terrain. 
  2. A ‘hierarchy of road users’ has been introduced, to help protect those that are most at risk of harm. Pedestrians are at the top of the hierarchy, with priority going to children and those less mobile. Cyclists are next, followed by horse-riders, then motorcyclists, cars and taxis, vans and minibuses, coaches and finally heavy goods vehicles.
  3. An update to the rules means sleepy drivers can’t stop in emergency areas of the motorway or road. This is in addition to the hard shoulder. The Highway Code also tells drivers to get enough sleep before setting off and to take rest breaks at service stations.
  4. It also recommends that drivers have high vis clothing in the vehicle, and a mobile containing emergency contacts on them.
  5. People that hog lanes on fast roads are often moaned about for being a nuisance, but it is also an extremely dangerous thing to do. An update to the Highway Code rule number 138 states that road users on a dual carriageway with three or more lanes, can use righthand lanes to overtake, but they should return to the left-hand lane. Rule 264 now states ‘keep in the left lane unless overtaking’.
  6. There is an extra clause added to ‘be aware emergency services, traffic officers, recovery workers and other people or vehicles that have stopped’ and encourages those in the left lane, to move into the adjacent lane if it’s safe.
  7. An update also states that drivers should check all their mirrors and slow down ahead of entering foggy areas.
  8. Drivers can’t reverse or drive against the traffic on a motorway and amended text to highway code rule 263 adds slip roads, hard shoulders, and emergency areas too.
  9. The Highway Code also recommends that drivers who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired should register for the 999-text service called emergencySMS.net, so they can receive help on busy roads quickly and safely if needed.
  10. People that hold provisional licences can’t drive on the motorway, unless they are driving a dual controlled car with L plates on, and they are accompanied by a DVSA approved instructor. Motorcyclists with a provisional can’t practice on the motorway and pedestrians, cyclists, riders of motorcycles under 50cc, horse riders shouldn’t be on there either.
  11. Motorways are also having a revamp, motorists will be warned of any upcoming hazards, like a spillage, an incident, fog, road workers with signs above lanes. Red flashing light signals and a red ‘X’ on a sign indicate a closed lane in which hazards are present. Drivers must follow instructions on signs in advance of a closed lane to most safely to an open lane.
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