The Highway Code was introduced in Great Britain in 1931.

Then there were only 2.3 million vehicles on roads, but more than 7,000 people died in road accidents each year.

According to the DVSA, the first edition of the Highway Code did not mention the use of mirrors and it advised drivers to sound their horn when overtaking.

New turning

The Highway Code is currently undergoing a review to improve road safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.

The AA was one of a number of organisations to submit their views. It broadly supports the government’s proposals, but shared concerns around the lack of clarity and guidance on some of the proposals. As part of the process, AA asked the public for their views.

Nearly three quarters of drivers (72%) think the Highway Code should be updated. New information should include smart motorways.

Drivers in the South East of England (76%) are the keenest to see more advice on smart motorways. They may perhaps be wary of the new smart motorway sections of the M20 and M23.

Six in 10 drivers (62%) say they want to see more information on electric vehicles. This includes the charging infrastructure and road sign meanings. There is currently no official section with guidance on electric vehicles. This is despite the government’s push for drivers to buy more eco-friendly vehicles.

A further 60% said they want more guidance on vulnerable road users like electric scooters and cyclists. The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured on Great Britain’s roads has increased by 8% since 2009. Cyclists accounted for 14% of casualties and 6% of road deaths in Great Britain in 2019.

Time for change

“Our research shows drivers want the Highway Code to be brought into the 21st century,” states Robert Cowell, Interim Managing Director of AA Driving School. “Drivers in 1931 wouldn’t believe the ways in which road safety and technology has developed over the last 90 years.”

He calls for the Code to be updated to reflect the changes and “keep drivers safe and informed of the latest developments”. For example the rise in electric vehicles, more cyclists and changing road designs.

You can find more information here:

AA’s beginners guide to the Highway Code.

History of road safety and the Highway Code.

Government consultation – cyclists, pedestrians, horse riders

Government consultation – motorways and high speed roads