The new Highway Code could cause more problems than it solves.

According to a new survey by IAM RoadSmart, almost two thirds (59%) of UK motorists believe it will lead to more conflict. It is the introduction of the new hierarchy of road users that is causing the worries.

Code for danger

This new risk-based hierarchy is the biggest change to the new Highway Code launched at the end of January. It states that road users who possess the potential to do the greatest harm will have the most responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others.

All road users, including pedestrians, are governed by the ‘hierarchy’. However, it applies most strongly to drivers of HGVs, vans, buses, cars and motorcycles, as they typically cause the most damage in the event of a collision.

Nearly 60% of the 1,000 motorists surveyed said they believe that the new system will create more conflict. Meanwhile, only 6% of motorists thought the new implementation would cause less conflict, and 13% don’t think it will change anything.

What priorities?

Under the new policy, pedestrians now have priority at junctions. It means that vehicles turning in or out of them should give way.

Responsibility sits with each road user to know how the new rules affect them, and how they should act in the safest way. Many of the rules are legal requirements and can carry fines and points if not obeyed.

Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at IAM RoadSmart, says that it’s “concerning”. He adds that all road users ned to “behave responsibly with a mutual respect for each other’s safety” While the “hierarchy offers clarity”, Greig says that “it is important for all road users to understand how the changes will affect them”.

“An upcoming Department for Transport (DfT) information campaign will hopefully go some way towards disarming the scepticism around these changes, by ensuring the proper messaging is getting through. However, we would urge the DfT to be more realistic about the impact that simply changing a seldom read document will have on the behaviour and safety of road users, and instead, roll out more intensive and timely campaigns to build awareness and confidence in the new code.”

The results

Do you believe the new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ approach will create more or less conflict on the roads?
Answer Percentage* Respondents
Create more conflict 59 590
Create less conflict 14 143
No change 13 125
Don’t know 14 142


According to new Highway Code rules, pedestrians will now have priority when waiting to cross at a junction over vehicles turning into or out of it. Do you believe this will lead to more pedestrians being injured by vehicle users?
Answer Percentage* Respondents
I believe there will be more pedestrian injuries 54 540
I believe there will be fewer pedestrian injuries 15 154
I don’t believe there will be any change 19 194
Don’t know 11 112

*to zero decimal places