What is the Highway Code?

Theory Test Highway Code
Last updated: Monday, 22nd July 2024
What is the Highway Code?

The Highway Code is a set of UK rules and guidelines designed to keep all road users safe, including pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and motorists.

It applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Its primary objective is to promote road safety by providing information, advice, and mandatory rules that all road users must follow.

This article examines the Highway Code and its significance for learner drivers, the driving theory test, and all road users.

Key takeaways

  • The Highway Code is a comprehensive guide to the rules and regulations of the road for all road users in the United Kingdom

  • It covers a wide range of topics, including general rules and guidelines, pedestrian rules, rules for cyclists, rules for motorists, road signs and markings, and penalties and enforcement

  • Understanding the Highway Code is essential for all road users who want to stay safe and responsible on the road

Understanding the Highway Code

The Highway Code is a comprehensive guide to the rules of the road in the United Kingdom. It was first introduced in 1931 and is now updated regularly to reflect developments with vehicles, driving practices, and the law. Its purpose is to make roads safer for everybody.

One of the most important aspects of the Highway Code is the hierarchy of road users. It sets out a clear order of priority for different types of road users, with pedestrians at the top, followed by cyclists, horse riders, and then motorcyclists and drivers. This hierarchy is designed to ensure that the most vulnerable road users are given the most protection.

The Highway Code also covers the rules for driving on different types of roads, including motorways, rural roads, and urban roads. It provides guidance on how to overtake safely, how to use roundabouts, and how to deal with roadworks.

In addition to the rules of the road, the Highway Code also provides guidance on vehicle safety. This includes advice on vehicle maintenance, such as checking your brakes and tyres, and how to secure your load.

It also covers the use of safety equipment, such as seat belts and child car seats. Overall, the Highway Code is an essential guide for all road users in the United Kingdom.

What does the Highway Code cover?

Here's a summary of the key contents of the Highway Code:

  • Rules for pedestrians

  • Rules for users of powered wheelchairs and powered mobility scooters

  • Rules about animals

  • Rules for cyclists

  • Rules for motorcyclists

  • Rules for drivers and motorcyclists

  • General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders

  • Using the road

  • Road users requiring extra care

  • Driving in adverse weather conditions

  • Waiting and parking

  • Motorways

  • Breakdowns and incidents

  • Road works, level crossings and tramways

  • Light signals controlling traffic

  • Signals to other road users

  • Signals by authorised persons

  • Traffic signs

  • Road markings

  • Vehicle markings

General Highway Code rules and guidelines

Here are some of the general rules and guidelines outlined in the Highway Code:

  • Know your traffic signs: The Highway Code contains a comprehensive list of traffic signs and their meanings. All road users must understand these signs, as they provide important information about the road ahead.

  • Give way to others: The rules in the Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an accident.

  • Stay alert and focused: It is important to stay alert and focused when driving. This means avoiding distractions, such as mobile phones and loud music and being aware of your surroundings at all times.

  • Observe speed limits: Speed limits are in place for a reason - to keep everyone safe. Always observe the speed limit, and adjust your speed according to the conditions of the road.

  • Use lights correctly: Lights are an important safety feature on your vehicle. Use them correctly to ensure that you can see and be seen by other road users.

  • Wear a seatbelt: It is a legal requirement to wear a seatbelt when driving. Make sure that you and your passengers are always wearing seatbelts and that they are properly fastened.

New Highway Code rules

The most recent updates to the Highway Code have introduced several changes aimed at improving road safety. Here are some of the key updates:

Hierarchy of road users

A significant change is the introduction of a hierarchy of road users. This new rule emphasises that those who can do the most harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger they may pose to others.

Crossing rules

Updated rules now require drivers to give way to pedestrians crossing a road or waiting to cross at junctions you're turning into.

Highway Code rules for motorists

Here are some of the key rules for motorists:

  • Speed limits: Motorists must stick to the speed limits on the road they are driving on. These limits are in place to ensure the safety of all road users.

  • Seat belts: The driver and passengers must wear seat belts at all times while driving. Children under 12 years old or under 135cm tall must use an appropriate child restraint.

  • Driving under the influence: It is illegal to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The legal limit for alcohol in the bloodstream is 80 milligrammes per 100 millilitres of blood.

  • Mobile phones: It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving. Motorists must use a hands-free device if they need to make or receive a call.

  • Overtaking: Motorists must overtake only when it is safe to do so. They should check their mirrors and blind spots before overtaking and should give plenty of room to the vehicle they are overtaking.

  • Pedestrian crossings: Motorists must give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, pelican crossings, and puffin crossings. They should also be aware of pedestrians crossing the road at other points and should be prepared to stop if necessary.

  • Traffic lights: Motorists must stop at a red traffic light and only proceed when the light turns green. They should also be aware of amber lights and should stop if it is safe to do so.

  • Roundabouts: Motorists should approach roundabouts with caution and give way to traffic already on the roundabout. They should signal their intentions and should not change lanes while on the roundabout.

What is the hierarchy of road users?

The hierarchy of road users is a new guideline within the Highway Code that prioritises the safety of the most vulnerable individuals on the road.

Under this hierarchy, those who can cause the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the risk they may pose to others. Essentially, it's about protecting those who are most at risk in the event of an accident.

Rule H1

H1 of the Highway Code highlights that drivers must take extra care around vulnerable road users, like pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders. This rule is important because it helps ensure the safety of everyone on the road.

By driving carefully, sticking to speed limits, and keeping a safe distance, drivers can help prevent accidents and make the roads safer for everyone.

Rule H2

H2 of the Highway Code hierarchy states that all drivers, motorcyclists, horse riders, and cyclists must give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross at junctions.

Drivers must give way to pedestrians on zebra crossings as well as to both pedestrians and cyclists on parallel crossings.

Pedestrians have priority at these crossings, including light-controlled ones when they have a green signal.

Rule H3

H3 of the Highway Code hierarchy advises drivers and motorcyclists not to cut across cyclists, horse riders, or horse-drawn vehicles when turning into or out of a junction, changing direction, or lane.

Do not turn if it would force them to stop or swerve. Always wait for a safe gap when cyclists are approaching, passing, moving off from a junction, navigating around slow-moving traffic, or travelling around a roundabout.

Where can I find the Highway Code?

You can get the latest online version of the Highway Code on the Driving Theory 4 All website. You can also purchase a printed copy from most major bookstores or the GOV.UK website.

Do I need to know the Highway Code to pass my DVSA theory test?

It's important to have a good understanding of the Highway Code to pass your DVSA theory test.

The theory test includes questions about road signs, rules and regulations, and safe driving practices which are all covered in the Highway Code.

Driving Theory 4 All's theory test app - Driving Theory Test Assistant - includes the latest updates to the Highway Code along with the most up-to-date DVSA theory test practice questions and hazard perception videos, making it a great study tool for your theory test.

Download the Driving Theory Test Assistant app now for FREE and PASS first time

Frequently asked questions about the Highway Code

The Highway Code is a set of instructions, guidelines, and mandatory rules for road users in England, Scotland and Wales. Its primary goal is to promote road safety.

Every road user, including drivers, cyclists, motorcyclists, pedestrians, and horse riders, is required to follow the Highway Code.

Yes, many of the rules in the Highway Code are legal requirements. Failure to comply with them can result in fines, points on your driving licence, or other penalties. Other parts are guidelines and best practices to help keep road users safe.

The Highway Code is updated regularly to reflect changes in laws, safety procedures, and road usage practices. All road users should keep up to date with the latest edition.

You can access the Highway Code on the Driving Theory 4 All website, through the UK government website, and as physical books at stores.

Yes, the Highway Code contains specific rules tailored to different types of vehicles and road users, such as heavy goods vehicles, buses, bicycles, and motorcycles, to address the unique challenges and risks associated with each.

The Highway Code provides essential knowledge to help you pass both the theory test and practical driving test. Understanding and applying the Highway Code rules is necessary to pass both tests.

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