The Highway Code has changed - what does this mean for your commercial fleet?
At the beginning of this year some significant changes were made to the Highway Code, which have been made to help clarify the driver’s responsibility to protect more vulnerable road users.
If you weren’t aware of the changes, you’re not alone. Despite a campaign by the Department of Transport in February, many companies are not aware of the changes. In fact, we think most people haven’t actually revisited their Highway Code since they took their driving test!
Nine sections of the code have been updated with 50 rules added or amended. We’ve taken a closer look at some of the key changes that you should be aware of:
Key changes to the Highway Code
A new Hierarchy of Road Users
The Highway Code has been amended to include a Hierarchy of Road Users with those most at risk in the event of an accident at the top. All road users have a duty of care to their own safety and that of others, but vehicles have an increased capacity to cause serious injury, damage or sadly, fatalities, in a collision. This means that drivers have an additional responsibility to maintain safe practices and behaviour on the roads – drivers are expected to be aware of cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. The motoring research image here show clearly what the new hierarchy is.
There has been an amendment to the guidance on shared space. When overtaking a cyclist, a driver must leave a 1.5 metre berth when travelling at speeds of up to 30 mph. This is increased to 2 metres if going faster. At least two metres distance should be left when passing people walking in the road, such as when there is no pavement. In addition to this, when turning into a road, a driver must give way to any pedestrians waiting to cross the road.
Opening car doors – The Dutch Reach
Drivers and passengers are advised to use a practice known as the Dutch Reach when opening their vehicle doors. This is where you open your car door using the hand furthest away, because it causes you to twist and look out the window for obstructions.
Stricter laws on mobile phone use whilst driving
The updates have also included stricter laws governing the use of mobile phones whilst driving. Drivers are banned from using hand held devices for interactive communications. This brings the offence in line with drink driving, as an unacceptable practice.
Restrictions on using your mobile phone include unlocking the device, checking the time and notifications, scrolling playlists, using the camera, making, receiving and rejecting calls, sound or video recording, accessing apps or the internet and more. These are all in addition to calling and texting even when stationary.
You are allowed to use your mobile phone in the event of an emergency and navigation is permitted if the phone is in a cradle.
You can visit the government website for more details here.
Impact on commercial fleets and claims
The changes made may have a potential impact if you manage/own a commercial fleet. As an employer, you will have a duty of care under the Health and Safety Authority at work and Management of H&S at Work Regulations to manage occupational road risks. This means you should inform your drivers of these updates.
Whilst many of the rules in the Highway Code are advisory, if they are broken and cause an accident as a result, they can be used in court to establish liability under the Road Traffic Act.
The government has also introduced a new offence in 2022 – causing serious injury by careless driving. This carries an obligatory disqualification from driving and a maximum penalty of two years in prison. This new offence applies when a momentary lapse of concentration can be established. If a collision results in another person requiring medical attention, then the driver may be treated as a suspect by the police. Cases will be heard in the Crown Court, rather than a Magistrates Court, which increases costs, time, and possibly reputational damage, impacting your business if one of your drivers is involved.
Advice for commercial fleets - reduce your risk
There are some things that you can do over and above advising your drivers of the changes.
Review your drivers’ hours and ensure that breaks are taken. Perhaps you can add in additional breaks beyond the legal requirements to help concentration.
Reinforce the rules of the road and your own H&S procedures with refresher or training courses on a regular basis. Revisit mobile phone instructions.
If you don’t already, employ fleet telematics to help detect aspects of driver behaviour which could indicate careless driving practices. Look to support your employees with access to immediate legal advice, if they are alleged to be liable for careless driving.
Road safety for your drivers and other road users should be a serious consideration for your business if you operate a commercial fleet, of any size. At Barnes we can help you to protect your business with fleet insurance, from two cars upwards, and can help you to assess the risks associated with operating a commercial fleet.
Our risk management support can extend to online or in person courses, to make sure your teams understand their responsibilities on UK roads.
Get in touch today to discuss your fleet insurance requirements with an experienced commercial broker. Telephone 01480 272727 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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