Highway Code changes 2022: new rules for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians

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Highway Code
2022 changes
H1 rule
H2 rule
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The Highway Code has changed! But don’t panic, we’ve got a quick rundown of everything you need to know about the new rules, which came into place on January 29th.

What is the Highway Code? 📖

The Highway Code, first published back in 1931, aims to help improve road safety across Britain. It has been essential reading for all road users ever since - you probably remember carrying that little blue book everywhere while you revised for your driving test, or checking it out online.

Contained within the code are a series of mandatory rules and guidelines for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and even horse riders. Covering everything from road signs to documentation requirements, the Highway Code is written by the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency and is available online and in retail outlets.

In order to differentiate between advice or guidelines and legal requirements, the Code precedes the instruction with the words “must/must not” in bold. Be warned: if you’re found breaking these rules, the Highway Code can be used in court under the Road Traffic Act 1988, and offenders may receive warnings, penalty points, driving bans, or prosecutions. Don’t get caught out.

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When do the changes come in?

The Highway Code has been updated many times since it was first published. Road users are required to be aware of any updates and to put them into practice immediately - and, as usual with legal matters, ignorance is no excuse. Many of the rules are also clearly set out on the Cuvva website, and we’ve done our best to minimise the legal jargon, making them easy to understand. Our Know the Rules section is the place to go for a quick rundown.

The Highway Code saw a range of new updates come into force on 29th January 2022. There were eight new rules introduced, and 49 updates to the existing rules.

The Highway Code changed in January 2022
The Highway Code changed in January 2022
More rules of the road 👮‍♀️
Check out our full selection of guides for tips, advice and rules. Learn more.

Hierarchy on the road (H1 rule)

The so-called H1 rule is the most significant change to the Highway Code and sets out a hierarchy of road users based on their vulnerability.

Road users who can do the most harm, such as drivers of large vehicles, have the most responsibility. At the other end are pedestrians, particularly the elderly or children, who are more likely to receive an injury in the event of an accident.

The hierarchy of responsibility, from most vulnerable to most dangerous, is now:

  • Pedestrians - especially children and the elderly
  • Cyclists
  • Horse riders, or horse-drawn vehicles
  • Motorcyclists
  • Cars
  • Vans and minibuses
  • Large passenger vehicles and heavy goods vehicles

Pedestrians must also be considerate of other road users, and it is hoped that this rule change will create a “more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use”.

Changes in priority at junctions (H2 rule)

The H2 rule is designed to introduce clear priorities at junctions between drivers, motorbike riders, horse riders and cyclists. The drivers in vehicles that can cause the most harm have a responsibility to reduce the risks they pose to those that are more vulnerable.

This means:

  • When they are waiting to cross the road at a zebra crossing or road junction, pedestrians take priority
  • At a parallel crossing, pedestrians and cyclists have priority
  • Don’t cross in front of cyclists or horse riders at junctions
  • When overtaking a cyclist or motorbike at 30mph, make sure you give them at least 1.5 metres of clearance
  • In slow traffic, or on quiet roads, cyclists should ride in the middle of the road when approaching a junction
  • In a large group, cyclists can ride two abreast

A round-up of the other rule changes

Along with the hierarchy of road users, a number of other rules and updates are being introduced at the end of January 2022.

Stricter rules on mobile phone use:

It’s been against the law to use your phone to text or make a call whilst driving for several years, but from 29th January it was illegal to even touch your phone.

This means you cannot:

  • Take photos or videos
  • Play games
  • Change music

You are permitted, however, to use your phone to pay for things when your car is stationary, such as car parking or road tolls. Providing your phone is in a mounted holder, you can also make calls, play music, or use the sat nav.

Rule 72:

The new rule 72 is concerned with cyclists and their positioning on the road, advising cyclists to:

  • Ride in the centre of the lane on quiet roads to increase their visibility
  • On approaching a junction, ride in the centre
  • Move to the left if approached from behind by a vehicle
  • Keep to the left in slow-moving traffic to enable faster moving vehicles to overtake
  • On busy roads, allow vehicles to overtake

Updates to Rule 239

There are two new updates to this rule concerned with parking and waiting. The first one introduces the use of the ‘Dutch Reach’.

Named after one of the most cycle-friendly nations, the Dutch Reach is a safe method of opening a car door from the inside, minimising the danger to passing cyclists.

It’s done by reaching across with the arm furthest from the door and grasping the door handle. This encourages us to twist our heads around, looking over our shoulders, making passing cyclists easy to spot and avoid as we open the car door.

The second update advises drivers of electric cars to be aware that their charging cables are a potential trip hazard for pedestrians and to take care to minimise any risks.

With electric cars becoming more popular, especially as the looming deadline for a diesel and petrol vehicle ban gets closer, this update will become even more important.

Remember that it’s our responsibility as road users to know what the new changes are and how they affect us, so make sure you’re ready for the new Highway Code!

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The Highway Code may be changing but the one golden rule remains: before you hit the road, you must be insured.

We’ve got everything you need, with temporary insurance from 1 hour to 28 days (with no nasty hidden fees, interest or tie-ins).

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Updated on 3rd April 2023