Half of drivers still feel unsure whether changes to the Highway Code – made two years ago – have made the roads safer for pedestrians, the findings of a new survey show.
At the heart of the changes, which came into effect on 29 January 2022, was the creation of a new hierarchy of road users. The hierarchy means drivers of quicker or heavier modes of travel have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose.
One of the most notable changes advises drivers turning into or out of a junction to give way to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders who are either crossing or are waiting to cross the road.
According to the survey, published as part of the RAC’s Report on Motoring, 51% feel unsure if the Highway Code changes have made any difference – while only a fifth (18%) of respondents believe the new rules have increased pedestrian safety.
Meanwhile a third (31%) think pedestrians face even greater danger at junctions since the measures were published.
The RAC believes the message ‘simply hasn’t got through to drivers’. While Highway Code Rule 170 states drivers should give way to pedestrians when turning in or out of junctions, less than a quarter (23%) of respondents said they always do.
Nearly half (48%) say they give way most of the time but a fifth (19%) admit they don’t stop very often while 6% never do.
When the same pool of respondents were asked if, as pedestrians, they notice other drivers stopping to give way, just 2% said they see others stop all the time, while two-thirds (65%) said drivers rarely or never stop for them.
Rod Dennis, RAC road safety spokesperson, said: “When initially introduced, we welcomed the major Highway Code changes because they were set to make the roads much safer for the most vulnerable users.
“However, two years on, it’s concerning to see there’s still so much uncertainty, with most drivers not stopping for people crossing when they should and therefore many pedestrians seeing no change to their safety at junctions.
“The updates are only as good as a universal understanding of them. If a driver turns into a junction as a pedestrian is crossing, it’s already too late, because that’s when confusion could turn into a collision.
“Part of the reason may be that drivers simply don’t know that the changes have been made, least of all the consequences of ignoring them.
“Most drivers probably rarely refer to the Highway Code once they’ve passed their tests, and that’s where the problem could lie. We urge motorists to take another close look at the changes. We’d also urge the Government to make another concerted effort in communicating the changes to all road users.”
The findings correlate with a report from the Government’s Public Accounts Committee which, in November 2023, declared that messaging around the changes had not been communicated effectively enough to encourage public participation.