You may have heard the Highway Code has been updated for 2022 so it better reflects the latest mix of road users, and addresses confusion over phone-use laws. But while the changes are here to improve safety, if you’re not familiar with them, there’s every chance you could be caught out and handed a hefty fine. Or worse: a fine and points. Ouch.
Don’t worry though, because cinch is here to help. We run through the 2022 Highway Code alterations below so you can feel confident when behind the wheel. Happy (and safe) driving!
Mobile phone use is banned
Ok, so many of us will have assumed this one to have already been in force, but in truth, the previous mobile phone laws were dated, having been introduced in 2003. The laws didn’t reflect that smartphones can now be used for far more than just making calls, so the Highway Code restrictions have been tightened so they include the use of music apps, taking videos or photos, and – surely this one was obvious – playing games. You can’t even use the phone while the car is stationary.
Phones can however, still be used for hands-free calls via your car’s Bluetooth or wired connection, as well as satellite navigation and payment at tolls or booths. But in all cases, the phone will need to be secured in place, rather than in your hands or lap. Break the rules and you could be handed a £200 fine and six penalty points. If the case is deemed serious enough to go to court, you could be handed a maximum £1,000 fine and be disqualified from driving.
Pedestrians and cyclists have priority at junctions
This change could very well catch out motorists, because it requires drivers to let pedestrians or cyclists (or horse riders) cross if they’re waiting at the roadside on a junction. Previously, motorists only had to give way in these circumstances if the pedestrian/cyclist was already crossing.
The rule change comes in a bid to reduce the chances of vulnerable road users from being clipped or hit by a car, placing the onus on the driver – ie. the person in the least vulnerable position – to prevent such incidents. This is likely to affect urban drivers most, because of the prevalence of jaywalking on city streets.
Zebra crossing pedestrians given more right of way
The 2022 changes have clarified that pedestrians waiting to walk onto a zebra crossing have right of way, rather than just those already stepping onto it. We suspect few motorists will
have to make a habit change with the alteration, because it’s commonplace for drivers to stop as soon as someone approaches a zebra crossing. But for the few offenders – such as those who power past zebra crossings to avoid stopping – it makes the rules clear.
Not only will witnesses be able to report rule breakers, dashcam footage can also be used to prove that a motorist unsafely blasted over a zebra crossing where pedestrians were waiting. It’s a strong deterrent – and one that’ll be music to the ears of parents with young children who walk home from school.
Cyclists don’t have to keep left – or use lanes
For motorists who drive in cities like London, Bristol or Edinburgh, this rule clarification probably won’t make much difference in practice. But for those in areas where cyclists are a less common sight, it might. The 2022 Highway Code no longer asks for cyclists to stay on the left side of the road – or, indeed, to use any provided cycle lanes. Instead, cyclists are told to ride “no less than half a metre” from the kerb or verge.
This places a greater responsibility on motorists to overtake cyclists safely. The Code dictates drivers must pass cyclists with at least 1.5 metres of space up to 30mph, with a wider gap at higher speeds. In practice, this will probably mean cars will need to pass a cyclist as if they were another car. Cyclists are however, asked to keep left in slow moving traffic or at busy junctions, to aid with overtaking in these trickier scenarios.
Drivers must treat cyclists like motorists when joining roads
Believe it or not, motorists weren’t previous required to wait for a gap between cyclists when joining a new road. And while in reality, nobody in their right mind is going to pull out of a side road onto a street if a train of cyclists is passing, the 2022 rules do now clarify the requirement to give bicycles way. As you would with passing cars, you’re required to wait for a gap in cyclists before joining a new road.
To ensure compliance of this tweaked rule, motorists who fail to give way could receive a £70 fine.
Dutch Reach recommended for car users opening doors
As the name suggests, this technique of opening a car door comes from one of the world’s biggest adopters of cycling for transport, Holland. The Dutch Reach – no sniggering in the back – asks motorists or passengers to use their arm furthest from the door when pulling the handle to get out. This forces them to rotate their torso, thereby increasing the chances of them seeing an approaching cyclist.
While you’re not required to use the Dutch Reach technique when getting out of a car, it’s recommended, because you’re liable if a cyclist hits your door. Always look back to avoid causing harm.
Box junctions, traffic light lines and give-way rules tightened up
Motorists who enter a box junction when not turning right, cross the white line at a set of red traffic lights, or don’t give way to oncoming cars on a narrow road can now be penalised
by the local council. Previously, these rules were only enforceable by the police, but now more power has been granted to local authorities to help crack down on offenders. When the new rules for these misdemeanours come into force this spring, even motorists who creep over the white line into the box ahead for cyclists at a traffic light can be penalised. Motorists can be fined £70 or more for the offences, which also include making U-turns in areas where they’re prohibited.