CHANGES to the Highway Code which came into force at the weekend give greater focus to the safety of vulnerable road users including pedestrians and cyclists.

However, research from Venson Automotive Solutions reveals that not all motorists support the changes, believing they could create more dangerous situations on UK roads, as opposed to reducing them.

Whilst the Highway Code itself is not a legal document and the rules outlined in it are not official road laws, a number of the points outlined in the code are backed up by official traffic laws, meaning drivers can be fined, prosecuted or disqualified if they ignore them. Venson is calling fleet managers and businesses to make company car and van drivers aware of the changes and the importance of adhering to them.

According to a Venson survey, 79% of motorists disagree with the change that will allow cyclists to pass slower-moving or stationary traffic on the right or left, including at the approach to junctions.

Cyclists will be advised they should proceed with caution, especially when deciding whether it is safe to pass lorries or other large vehicles. The question being asked by motorists is “what is deemed safe?”

However, nearly 50% agree with the proposed new rule which states drivers should remain behind cyclists and motorcyclists at junctions, even if the cyclist is waiting to turn and are positioned close to the kerb.

Pedestrian safety is also being reviewed. Changes include requesting drivers to give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road in to which the driver is turning. This is supported by 44% of survey respondents. In addition, drivers will have to give way to pedestrians on a zebra crossing, and to pedestrians and cyclists on a parallel crossing.

Alison Bell, Marketing Director for Venson Automotive Solutions comments, “There is a lot of new information for drivers to take onboard. It’s essential that businesses operating a fleet of vehicles have a process in place to allow drivers to familiarise themselves with new changes, as well as brush up on existing rules.

“Businesses and drivers have a Duty of Care to themselves, other road users and pedestrians. A failure to understand the new rules and correctly implement them could result in financial penalties, law breaking or worse, guilty of an avoidable accident.”

On the changes, car insurance expert at Alex Kindred says: “When changes are made to the Highway Code, it’s important that road users familiarise themselves. However, our latest research found that more than almost three in four (72%) drivers found the new rules confusing, which can be concerning as these are put in place to help keep all road users safe. In particular, more than half (57%) of drivers said that they felt confused about pedestrian priority at junctions and more than two in five (43%) were also confused about the new rulings around the hierarchy of road users.

“Almost two thirds (60%) of drivers polled said that they never brush up on changes to the Highway Code themselves, with a further (61%) believing the government should take responsibility in making road users aware of any changes. But it’s important that we’re taking the time to keep up to date with the changes to keep our roads safe.

“We’ve collated all of the new highway code changes, which should help us all feel a little less confused about what the new rulings mean for us and more confident for when we get behind the wheel.”