In January 2022, significant changes to the Highway Code came into effect, with a major rule overhaul intended to offer clarity on drivers’ responsibilities and the protection of vulnerable road users.

If you weren’t aware of the changes, then you’re certainly not alone. Like many well-seasoned road users, you probably haven’t looked at the rules, which are revised on a rolling basis, since you passed your driving test!

We’ve highlighted some of the key changes we think you should know about, and how these will impact on motorists. While many of the rules outlined in the Highway code are advisory, these rules can be used in court to prove liability in the event of an accident, under the Road Traffic Act, so it is important to keep up to date with any changes that occur.

The New Hierarchy of Road Users

Vehicles have the potential to cause damage, severe injury and even fatality, so there is now extra emphasis on drivers adopting safe behaviours and practices on the roads. Drivers must now leave a safe distance of at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph, or 2 metres when driving at higher speeds, and must also give way to pedestrians who are waiting to cross, when turning into a road.

Using the opposing hand when opening a vehicle door, to reduce the risk of obstructing the path of a cyclist, is now highly recommended. The action of twisting the body naturally encourages drivers to look in the rear view and side mirrors, and over their shoulder.

A Clamp-down on Mobile Phone Use

Using mobile phones to text or make phone calls while driving or stationary at traffic lights, has been illegal since 2003. However, advances in smartphone technology, and the introduction of smart watches, have meant road users are still easily distracted while behind the wheel. The 25th of March saw the prohibition of interactive communication, including the following:

  • Unlocking a mobile device
  • Checking the time or notifications on a smartphone or watch
  • Scrolling through music playlists
  • Making, receiving or rejecting calls
  • Using the camera or video function, or recording voice notes
  • Accessing apps or the internet

The use of phones in emergency situations is still legal, as is the use for navigation purposes; provided the phone is set in a cradle.

A Warning for Daydreamers

2022 will also see the introduction of a new sentence for inflicting severe injury, through careless driving. The offence will be punishable by disqualification from driving and a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment.

Unlike dangerous driving, careless driving generally doesn’t involve conscious risk-taking, and can normally be attributed to a lapse of concentration. In a collision which results in another person receiving medical attention, the driver may be treated as a suspect by the police in the aftermath of the accident.

To protect yourself and other road users, visit for a more comprehensive view of the new rules and legislation.

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