It’s potentially all change for the Highway Code with a raft of new measures plus existing guidance tweaks being proposed by the government.

The main focus is on motorways and high-speed roads with new and additional guidance on:

  • the availability, appearance, and safe use of emergency areas
  • the use of variable speed limits to manage congestion
  • the use of the red ‘X’ sign to close lanes and provide a safer area for the people and vehicles involved in incidents and roadworks
  • the use of hard shoulders that become extra lanes during periods of congestion
  • how road users can help keep themselves safe in the event of a breakdown
  • how safety cameras are employed to promote compliance with speed limits and lane closures.

Dumb motorways?

You may have already spotted that many of the new proposals are focused on so-called smart motorways; these allow drivers to use the hard shoulder at all times unless gantry signs say not to, or only use the hard shoulder to help ease congestion levels if directed to by gantry signs.

The problem? There is clear evidence that smart motorways are not safe with people who break down put in danger by passing traffic as there is no hard shoulder to take shelter on.

The new Highway Code’s aim is to try and negate as many of the risks as possible so drivers are safer:

“The Highway Code is being updated to provide more guidance on driving on motorways and A-roads. It will include information such as emergency area signage, the use of variable speed limits to manage congestion, and how road users can help keep themselves and other road users safe in the event of a breakdown.”

• Roads minister Baroness Vere

Too tired to drive

The Highway Code also wants to address other factors that make high-speed roads and motorways unsafe. These include strengthened guidance on:

  • driver fatigue
  • unroadworthy vehicles
  • unsafe towing
  • tailgating.

Mobile phone clarification

Previously, the use of mobile phones when in your car was very clear in the Highway Code: Turn it off.

However, in the new Code, this has changed to: ‘For emergency use, you take a charged mobile telephone containing emergency telephone numbers’.

Why this all matters to you

If and when the new guidance is incorporated, it means there will be new rules and amendments that will subsequently be featured in the theory test.

Because the changes are simply proposals at this stage, it’s important to read them now and offer your feedback to Highways England – you can do this here – via an official public consultation that wants to hear your views.

The consultation runs until 29 March 2021 with a decision about the new guidance expected to follow soon after.

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Main image © West Midlands Police