What Recent Changes to the Highway Code Mean for You

January saw a number of changes be made to the Highway Code that had a pretty major impact on the road hierarchy and how drivers act.

We know that not every driver keeps up to date with the highway code but it’s important that you’re aware of these changes and how they’ll affect your driving.

Mobile Phones and Driving

At the start of the year, a legal loophole in mobile phone usage was closed.

Previously it was not illegal to use your phone if you were not communicating with another party while driving, so you could change your music, take a photo or even play a game. Though you could still be charged with a dangerous driving offence.

Since the 1st of January this is no longer the case, it is now illegal for drivers to use any mobile device whilst in control of a motor vehicle, which includes whilst stuck in traffic or stopped at the lights. Any driver found doing so will now face a fine of £200 and up to six points on their licence.

There is an exemption in place for drivers in a stationary vehicle who are using their mobile device to make a contactless payment, such as at a drive-thru.

Additionally, you are still able to use hands-free devices if they are secured in a cradle or mount and you are in control of the vehicle, so you will still be able to use Google maps.

Road Hierarchy Changes

The biggest changes though came later in the month on the 19th of January when several rules were updated and H1, H2 and H3 were added.

H1, H2 and H3 rules have made a significant change to the hierarchy on the road as they state that the vehicles capable of doing the greatest harm will have the highest level of responsibility to reduce the danger to all road users. This means that drivers will have more responsibility for cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians as cars and vans can inflict more damage to them. Similarly, cyclists and horse riders will have a responsibility towards pedestrians and larger road users such as lorry and bus drivers will have a greater responsibility for cars.

Greater responsibility for other road users’ safety means that they will have the priority of right of way in circumstances where they previously wouldn’t have. For example, at junctions anyone turning into a junction will now be required to give way to any pedestrian crossing or waiting to cross the road they’re turning into as the pedestrian will have right of way.

Additionally, the new rules state that drivers should not cut across cyclists or horse riders if they are in front of you when you’re turning into or out of a junction, changing direction or changing lane. And you should not turn at a junction if doing so would cause them to stop or swerve, you must now wait for a safe gap after they have passed.


The new rules reiterate that only pedestrians, including wheelchair and mobility scooter users, are the only ones who should be using the pavement. They are also able to use any part of a cycle track or road unless it is explicitly stated otherwise.

Previously, drivers only needed to give way to pedestrians and cyclists who were already on a zebra crossing but the new rules mean that you will now need to stop for anyone waiting to cross as well.


There are also changes giving higher priority to cyclists as well.

Under a new amendment all drivers must now give at least 1.5 metres of room between themselves and any cyclist they are passing when overtaking. This additional distance means you will need to go over into the next lane in order to give them the required distance and so you will need to be more aware of overtaking spaces and timing.

The amendments also recommend that if using on-street parking using the hand on the opposite side of their body to the door they are opening when leaving the vehicle so that they are turning their body and look over their shoulder making them more likely to spot any passing cyclists they might hit with the door.

There are also changes to how cyclists use the road that as a driver you will need to be aware of. The most important of which is their road positioning, as cyclists are now advised to travel in the middle of the lane, rather than to the left-hand side. This is to make them more visible to other road users, especially on quieter roads and in heavy traffic, as well as making it easier for them to perform manoeuvres such as turning right or taking the third exit on a roundabout.

Driving on No Sleep

Another notable change is the inclusion of tiredness under Rule 91 which is about the driver’s health and condition to drive. Drivers can now be fined for not getting sufficient sleep before getting behind the wheel.

More Power for More Fines

Local authorities have also been given more power to issue fines for moving traffic offences within their area. These offences include stopping in yellow junction boxes and performing bad manoeuvres and can now be punished by a fine of up to £70.

You can find out more by reading the Highway Code here.

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