Keoghs Insight


Michael Trueman

Government Consultation for Proposed Amendments to The Highway Code

Client Alerts30/07/2020

There is currently a gradual return to work across the UK following the Covid-19 “lockdown”. Where possible, people are attempting to avoid crowded public transport and there has been an increase in other methods of travelling to work, including cycling.

Accordingly, the Government has this week (28.07.20) launched a consultation regarding proposed amendments to The Highway Code to protect the safety of “vulnerable road users”, in particular cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

Please click here below for further details. 

The main proposed alterations to The Highway Code are as follows:

  • Introducing a “Hierarchy of Road Users” which ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others;
  •  Clarifying existing rules on pedestrian priority on pavements, to advise that drivers and riders should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road;
  •  Providing guidance on cyclist priority at junctions to advise drivers to give priority to cyclists at junctions when travelling straight ahead;
  •  Establishing guidance on safe passing distances and speeds when overtaking cyclists and horse riders.

The concept of a “Hierarchy of Road Users” places those road users most at risk in the event of a collision at the top of the Hierarchy.

The road users most likely to be injured in the event of a collision are pedestrians (in particular children, older adults and disabled people) followed by cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists. The Hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.

The principle behind this Hierarchy is that everyone suffers when road collisions occur, whether they are physically injured or not. However those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others.

This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, followed by vans/minibuses, cars/taxis and motorcycles. The consultation also states that cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles likewise have a responsibility to reduce danger to pedestrians.

As we are already aware, in the case of Eagle v Chambers [2003] the Court of Appeal recognised that drivers face a high burden to reflect the fact that their vehicle is potentially a dangerous weapon (based on the principle of “causative potency”). When apportioning liability between a driver and a pedestrian/cyclist the courts apply this principle, as well as assessing the “blameworthiness” of the parties involved. It is rare for a pedestrian/cyclist to be found more responsible for a collision than a driver.

If the proposed amendments to The Highway Code are implemented this is likely to raise the bar for motorists in the eyes of the Judge when assessing the standard of care and any breach of duty.

It should also be noted that an additional proposed amendment imposes an obligation upon drivers to ensure that any fitted audible warning systems for other road users and camera/audio alert systems for drivers are working and active. This is important, given how crucial such data is to liability issues (for example dash-cam footage).

Keoghs will be responding to the consultation and will, of course, share its analysis with insurers in advance. 

The consultation closes on 27.10.20.

For further information please contact Michael Trueman on 0191 449 0117.