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Highway Code: One-in-four drivers still don't know correct rule on cyclist priority

"The findings highlight how well-meaning changes to the Highway Code still put the onus on cyclists and other vulnerable road users to be aware of drivers"...

New research into drivers' knowledge of changes to the Highway Code has raised concern, a survey estimating that 25 per cent of drivers do not know the correct rules on pedestrian and cyclist priority.

The research comes courtesy of Tier, the world's largest shared micro-mobility operator, who surveyed motorists ahead of Car-Free Day and have now called for better awareness of the Highway Code changes and hierarchy of road users.

> The Highway Code for cyclists — all the rules you need to know for riding on the road explained

Changes were implemented in January 2022 to better protect vulnerable road users, and include establishing a hierarchy of road users with those most vulnerable (pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders) placed at the top, as well as giving cyclists and those on foot priority in situations such as the ones illustrated below.

Highway Code changes (Tier press release)

However, Tier's survey found that one-in-four drivers were incorrect or unable to answer on questions of pedestrian and cyclist priority and incorrectly believe that those driving vehicles have priority over cyclists and pedestrians when turning onto a side road.

Furthermore less than half of drivers correctly identified pedestrians as having priority, that despite the two-year anniversary of the Highway Code changes approaching this winter.

The Highway Code states:

You should not cut across cyclists, horse riders or horse-drawn vehicles going ahead when you are turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane

 More than a third of drivers surveyed wrongly believed drivers have priority when turning into a side road, while one-in-five said they were not sure who has priority.

Highway Code changes (Tier press release)

Jessica Murphy, Head of Public Policy UKI at Tier, said the results of the survey were troubling, and demonstrate the need to further raise awareness of the changes to avoid dangerous interactions on Britain's roads.

She said: "The findings highlight how well-meaning changes to the Highway Code still put the onus on cyclists and other vulnerable road users to be aware of drivers. Currently the majority of drivers should give cyclists their legal right of way, however a quarter will not, which could lead to potentially devastating outcomes.

> OPINION: Highway Code changes one year on — confusion in communication has created the perfect storm and done little to improve safety for cyclists

"We hope that by raising awareness of the changes more drivers will hear about the changes and drive according to the Highway Code, making our roads safer to cycle on, especially in urban areas and reduce conflict between road users."

Highway Code (Department for Transport)

The changes to the Highway Code were brought in 20 months ago and prompted much discussion and hysteria at the time. Just days before the revisions came into force, two major newspapers misrepresented the rules around the 'Dutch Reach' technique, designed to reduce the chances of dooring a cyclist.

A further concern came with the lack of communication of the changes to the public, Cycling UK at the time calling for a long-term public awareness campaign to help produce a "mindset shift" on British roads. It took until July, six months after they came into effect, for the changes to be promoted in a THINK! road safety campaign.

> Government slammed for not informing public of Highway Code changes aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians just days before they come into effect

And Tier's research is hardly surprising considering the news a year ago that an AA survey showed that 61 per cent of drivers had not read the new rules.

"While we are pleased that many of the changes can be successfully recalled, we'd like more drivers to know the rules outright so they can keep themselves and others safe," the managing director of AA Accident Assist, Tim Rankin, said.

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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63 comments

Avatar
wtjs | 8 months ago
1 like

Yet another junk survey! As correctly stated below- they know the rules but they don't like them,  just as they refuse to pay any attention to close passing distances or red traffic lights or MOTs. Nothing will change while the police display the same opinions

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Velo-drone | 9 months ago
2 likes

100% sure that some - potentially many - of those 75% know the new rule perfectly well, they just pretend not to because they don't like it and have no intention of ever observing it.

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Rendel Harris replied to Velo-drone | 9 months ago
1 like

Velo-drone wrote:

100% sure that some - potentially many - of those 75% know the new rule perfectly well, they just pretend not to because they don't like it and have no intention of ever observing it.

Precisely this, and it's rather like the somewhat absurd claim that "many" people in Wales didn't know about the 20mph limits before they were introduced, it's just people getting their defence in early so that if they get a ticket they can claim s'not fair, s'not fair 'cos nobody never told me it was against the law.

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IanMK | 10 months ago
2 likes

Most of the problems with this rule is the way it disrupts the way that drivers currently (incorrectly) interact with each other. I had one a while back as a ped. I'm approaching a juction. There's a lorry travelling in the same direction approaching the junction looking to turn right. I am going to get to the juction first so I clearly have priority. The driver coming towards us flashes to let the lorry turn. The lorry driver accepts the invite and drives across. I'm obviously not going to just continue because I have priority but I have already stepped out. I give the driver my best WTF gesticulation and he gives a sort of what was I supposed to do apologetic shrug.

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Sriracha replied to IanMK | 10 months ago
2 likes

Saw pretty much the same scenario, this time it was a van and the peds did cross the side street. Van driver gives them a blast on the horn, clearly believing they were in the wrong. Worryingly, he didn't even seem that concerned over the possibility he could hit them, I guess he just believed they should get out of "his way", that since they were at fault (in his view) any consequence were on them alone.

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wtjs | 10 months ago
1 like

duplicate post

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wtjs | 10 months ago
4 likes

This 'priority' stuff is fiction, as it was intended to be. There are always people on here determined to preserve the status quo which is: pedestrians and cyclists better look out for motor vehicles, and if they get hit it's their own fault for not stopping/ braking. It is not infrequent that drivers pull out immediately in front of a cyclist on the main road, or in front of a cyclist coming from the right on a roundabout. I am, indeed, ready for these offences so I live to tell the tale, but I often have video these days. The police are 100% not interested, so this priority will never be enforced or even reinforced by police advice letters. They will always think, but will not even respond formally to the report, that 'well, you should have braked, weren't you looking?!

The only way that pedestrians and cyclists can force 'priority' into the courts against the will of the police is by getting themselves KSI'd- even then, the authorities and the 'well, it wouldn't have happened to me, I would have looked' brigade on here would be predisposed against them. 

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hutchdaddy | 10 months ago
3 likes

1 in 4 I'm surprised it's that high.

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hutchdaddy | 10 months ago
0 likes

1 in 4 I'm surprised it's that high.

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belugabob replied to hutchdaddy | 8 months ago
0 likes
hutchdaddy wrote:

1 in 4 I'm surprised it's that high.

I'm surprised it's that low

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carlosdsanchez | 10 months ago
7 likes

Just make it compulsory to resit the theory test every time you get caught for a motoring offence. You could give say a 8 week grace period, but failure to take and pass the test within that period would result in loosing your driving licence until you had successfully passed. 

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to carlosdsanchez | 10 months ago
5 likes

I tried last year to petition for a refresher theory test when photocard licences are due for renewal on Gov't website, only it got rejected because it "didn't meet timeframe criteria". Licences have to be renewed every ten years, how is that not a suitable time frame?

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pockstone replied to carlosdsanchez | 10 months ago
2 likes

Not if it includes that ridiculously ambiguous and misleading picture above. What is it trying to convey?...'Don't ACTUALLY left hook cyclists, just scare the shit out of them by pulling past and slowing down while indicating left...' What's wrong with showing the car patiently waiting behind the cyclist, leaving plenty of space, and turning behind them? I'm not even sure that the Highway Code has anything new to say on this matter, has this not always been the case? I suppose the point does need hammering home as far as it concerns filtering cyclists, but filtering doesn't appear to be what is going on in the picture. (And what is meant by the car accelerating away from the junction...? 'If you've just ignored common sense and human decency and turned left immediately after passing a cyclist, get the hell out fast lest they catch up with you'...?)

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wycombewheeler replied to carlosdsanchez | 10 months ago
0 likes

losing

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carlosdsanchez | 10 months ago
5 likes

Just make it compulsory to resit the theory test every time you get caught for a motoring offence. You could give say a 8 week grace period, but failure to take and pass the test within that period would result in loosing your driving licence until you had successfully passed. 

 

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mattw | 10 months ago
0 likes

One in four is surprisingly good imo.

Though I'd frame it as "continuing education" not "retests".

And heaven knows there's a huge amount to be done that is simply reasonable and obvious, justifiable from a basic road safety perspective.

 

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ubercurmudgeon | 10 months ago
6 likes

Regularly retesting drivers, to ensure that they are qualified to hold a license to operate their dangerous vehicles around other people, is an eminently sensible suggestion, which would be uncontroversial in a rational society. But there's the rub, we don't live in a rational society. To start off with, our base primate natures abhor having something we feel we've previously won taken away from us. Then there has been decades of propaganda equating driving with freedom. The more that message embeds itself in the receptive minds of the people, the less political will there is to spend money on viable alternatives, creating a vicious circle. And, just in the last 24 hours, the Overton window has been shifted a bit more. With Sunak now mooting a delay to ICE car sales ban (to win back a few thousand Jeremy Clarkson fans in key constituencies) the fight is now to try to stop him doing that, rather than pushing for further positive steps.

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Matthew Acton-Varian replied to ubercurmudgeon | 10 months ago
3 likes

The problem is not with forcing everyone into EVs from ICE cars (which the plan was irrational and badly thought out as the network infrastructure was never going to be upgraded to properly cope) but the fact that the car, no matter the powertrain, is the least efficient method of transport period. There will be times where for certain people it will be necessary. But as long as the big oil and motor industry lobbyists continue to fund the Government that's never going to happen.

 

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HLaB | 10 months ago
0 likes

Mass retesting would probably be to expensive admin wise but there must be away folks can be made more aware of the rules.  Stricter punishments for breaking them would also help folk take conisance of the rules.  Is that the way :-/?

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belugabob replied to HLaB | 10 months ago
2 likes
HLaB wrote:

Mass retesting would probably be to expensive admin wise but there must be away folks can be made more aware of the rules.  Stricter punishments for breaking them would also help folk take conisance of the rules.  Is that the way :-/?

Maybe random call ups, for retesting - a bit like jury duty - the prospect of not knowing if/when it will happen will make people keep up to date.
#optimistic

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hawkinspeter replied to belugabob | 10 months ago
5 likes

belugabob wrote:

Maybe random call ups, for retesting - a bit like jury duty - the prospect of not knowing if/when it will happen will make people keep up to date. #optimistic

Impromptu roadside tests performed by police. Any driver they think looks suspicious, they pull over, ask a couple of test questions and any failure gets them booked for a full re-test.

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Brauchsel replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
4 likes

"Any driver they [the police] think looks suspicious, they pull over, ask a couple of test questions and any failure gets them booked for a full re-test."

I rather suspect the upshot of that would be every black person in London taking twice-weekly driving tests...

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hawkinspeter replied to Brauchsel | 10 months ago
2 likes

Brauchsel wrote:

"Any driver they [the police] think looks suspicious, they pull over, ask a couple of test questions and any failure gets them booked for a full re-test."

I rather suspect the upshot of that would be every black person in London taking twice-weekly driving tests...

Well getting rid of racist cops is definitely something we should do. Maybe it'd be a good way of finding them out, but then again stop and search hasn't been used that way. It's almost as if society is set up to be racist.

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mark1a replied to hawkinspeter | 10 months ago
3 likes

hawkinspeter wrote:

belugabob wrote:

Maybe random call ups, for retesting - a bit like jury duty - the prospect of not knowing if/when it will happen will make people keep up to date. #optimistic

Impromptu roadside tests performed by police. Any driver they think looks suspicious, they pull over, ask a couple of test questions and any failure gets them booked for a full re-test.

What is this "police" you speak of? From memory, I believe they used to operate around here, but haven't seen one for years. It's rumoured that they gather in a building known as "a station", there's blue & green cars parked outside, but I've not seen one enter or leave.

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wycombewheeler replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
0 likes

mark1a wrote:

hawkinspeter wrote:

belugabob wrote:

Maybe random call ups, for retesting - a bit like jury duty - the prospect of not knowing if/when it will happen will make people keep up to date. #optimistic

Impromptu roadside tests performed by police. Any driver they think looks suspicious, they pull over, ask a couple of test questions and any failure gets them booked for a full re-test.

What is this "police" you speak of? From memory, I believe they used to operate around here, but haven't seen one for years. It's rumoured that they gather in a building known as "a station", there's blue & green cars parked outside, but I've not seen one enter or leave.

I saw quite a few at a murder scene on my commute the other week. But actually traffic policing?... not so much

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pockstone replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
0 likes

No need to seek them out, just drive down the Great Western Road with a black face...they'll find you.

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wtjs replied to mark1a | 10 months ago
0 likes

What is this "police" you speak of? From memory, I believe they used to operate around here, but haven't seen one for years. It's rumoured that they gather in a building known as "a station", there's blue & green cars parked outside, but I've not seen one enter or leave

This is them hiding out at Garstang Police Station (well known crime hotspot) - there were more in the Aldi carpark over the road. This photo should help you spot one

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Rendel Harris replied to belugabob | 10 months ago
5 likes

belugabob wrote:

Maybe random call ups, for retesting - a bit like jury duty - the prospect of not knowing if/when it will happen will make people keep up to date. #optimistic

How about automatic retesting whenever points are incurred, failure meaning both points and financial penalty are doubled and licence is suspended until successfully re-taken?

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AndrewM replied to belugabob | 10 months ago
0 likes

If not retesting, just make it compulsory to have a 1 hour 'refresher' lesson with a driving instructor once every 5 years. Less bureocratic than a driving test - not pass/fail, but require a sign off from the instructor, which could be witheld, forcing you to do another refresher until you meet the standard.

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wycombewheeler replied to HLaB | 10 months ago
0 likes

HLaB wrote:

Mass retesting would probably be to expensive admin wise but there must be away folks can be made more aware of the rules.  Stricter punishments for breaking them would also help folk take conisance of the rules.  Is that the way :-/?

theory tests are not that expensive, just make it part of the process for applying for replacement licence

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