Highway Code

Essential reading for all road users, and especially for professional drivers

The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales, a different version applies to Northern Ireland. Applying the rules in the Code will improve road safety and also help you avoid penalties and fines. Research shows that most people don’t know the Highway Code as well as they think. So, if you haven’t looked at the Code for a while, do it today. You can buy the book, download an app, or view it online.

 

A different world?

The Highway Code was first introduced in 1931. Its 18 pages aimed to make roads safer through a common set of rules and advice for the drivers of the increasing motor vehicle population. It introduced legal requirements for road-users too.

At the time there were around 2.5m vehicles on the road; by 2017 Department for Transport figures show that figure had grown to 38m.

 

What’s the Highway Code for?

The original objectives of the Highway Code still apply – so there are legal obligations alongside sound advice. The following text is taken from the introduction to the Highway Code:

Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘Must/Must Not’.

Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability.

 

A Code for All

The Highway Code is not just for drivers. It contains instructions, information and advice to keep all road users safe. There’s an underlying principle that all road users should be considerate towards each other.

Within the ‘The Highway Code’ you’ll see the following sections (Rule numbers shown in brackets):

  • Introduction
  • Rules for pedestrians (1 – 35)
  • Rules for users of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters (36 – 46)
  • Rules about animals (47 – 58)
  • Rules for cyclists (59 – 82)
  • Rules for motorcyclists (83 – 88)
  • Rules for drivers and motorcyclists (89 – 102)
  • General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (103 – 158)
  • Using the road (159 – 203)
  • Road users requiring extra care (204 – 225)
  • Driving in adverse weather conditions (226 – 237)
  • Waiting & parking (238 – 252)
  • Motorways (253 – 273)
  • Breakdowns and incidents (274 – 287)
  • Road works, level crossings and tramways (288 – 307)
  • Light signals controlling traffic
  • Signals to other road users
  • Signals by authorised persons
  • Traffic signs
  • Road markings
  • Vehicle markings

…and a series of Annexes for further information.

Do you know your road signs?

It’s said there are some 4.6m road signs on the UK’s roads – two times more than just 20 years ago. There is in fact an ongoing consultation to reduce this number as they may even be distracting. In the meantime, whilst we all think we know our road signs, reports from Driver CPC trainers suggest that this isn’t quite true.

 

What the sign shapes indicate:

  • Circle – usually indicates instructions
  • Triangle – gives a warning
  • Rectangle – information
  • Octagon – means stop – it is the only sign that is this shape. Give Way is the only inverted triangle. Both of these signs are therefore easily recognised even when covered, for example by snow.

 

What the sign colours indicate:

  • Red – usually indicates prohibition
  • Blue – gives positive instructions, or directions on a motorway
  • Green – for signs used on primary roads
  • Brown – for tourist information
  • Yellow – used for emergencies, diversions or roadworks
  • White – used on non-primary or local routes

 

Highway Code Interesting Facts

  1. The sign warning drivers on country roads that there might be cows crossing is based on a real life beast called Patience, who lived on a farm in Warwickshire
  2. There are four different ‘lollipop positions’ to tell pedestrians when it’s safe to cross and drivers when they must be prepared to stop
  3. The current standard for UK road signs was designed in the 60s by a tutor at Chelsea Art School called Jock Kinnear and one of his students, Margaret Calvert
  4. A poll of 500 cabbies has called for a new sign warning drivers they’re in an area of high headphone usage! Stats from Maryland University in the US showed a three-fold increase in accidents involving pedestrians wearing headphones in just eight years
  5. There are four main kinds of pedestrian crossing in the UK – zebra, pelican, puffin and toucan. The latter is a light-controlled crossing for cyclists and pedestrians to share at the same time – ‘two can’ cross together!