The Department for Transport has proposed three new changes to the Highway Code that would fundamentally pass the liability onto HGV drivers in the event of a collision with cyclists/motorcyclists regardless of who is at fault in certain situations and could make pedestrians the top of the food chain in terms of giving way..
The three key proposals are…
- All drivers must give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross the road.
- All cyclists be given priority at junctions when travelling straight ahead
- A new ‘Hierarchy of Road Users’ be introduced.
These proposed changes are concerning, especially for professional drivers now potentially being responsible for the actions of others.
A statement from the RHA said that the changes would 'undermine the simple principle that we are all responsible for the safety of ourselves and all others when using the roads' and that the changes would ‘'put more responsibility for other road users onto the users of the largest vehicles'.
'In our view this responsibility translates into legal liability, the extent of the change to liability and how this impacts a presumption of responsibility in the event of a collision is not explained in the consultation. It simply places more responsibility on the driver of the largest vehicle.’ The statement continued.
'The current Highway Code makes legal liability clear, where it says “The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under Traffic Acts [see the road user and the law] to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’.’
'The new Code says: “The hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly.” However, the other changes demonstrate that some road users under the new hierarchy will have less obligation than others.'
Lorry and bus drivers have more responsibility for road safety than car or van drivers but Car and van drivers have more responsibility (and liability) for road safety than cyclists.
The RHA stated that all road users should exercise a ‘duty of care’ and be responsible for their own safety and others when driving or cycling.
The RHA said ‘The hierarchy undermines this simple straightforward and practical principle’.
'It lessens the responsibility of some road users and increases liability and responsibility of others.’ The RHA continued ‘The proposal seems to make some road users partially responsible for the behaviour of other road users based solely on the size of vehicle or device used on the roads. This is inappropriate. The law should govern behaviour by any road-user. The size of vehicle distracts from poor behaviour exercised by any road-user. When the RHA responds to the consultation we will reflect these concerns.'
In addition, these changes will extend pedestrian priority which is a major change for road users in the UK as is giving right of way to cyclists at junctions when overtaking or undertaking turning vehicles.
In relation to the above the RHA said 'The new rule for drivers & motorcyclists says, “Do not turn at a junction if to do so would cause a cyclist going straight ahead to stop or swerve...”. It continues, “You should stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary. This includes when cyclists are: approaching, passing or moving off from a junction, moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic...”
'This rule gives a right of way to any cyclist passing up the inside of a left turning vehicle or overtaking a right turning vehicle on the outside,' the RHA explained. 'For example, a car, van or lorry driver intending to turn left, indicating to do so, will be required to give way to a cyclist coming from behind going straight ahead - undertaking on the nearside.
This is one of the single biggest proposed changes in recent history and will fundamentally change the way new and old road users will travel or work by car, bike, hgv’s and buses etc.
Concluding their statement the RHA said “What is really frightening is the proposal to give a right of way to cyclists undertaking or overtaking vehicles at junctions," he continued. "Following such a rule will put cyclists in grave danger, and I believe the proposal is irresponsible.”
The RHA said it would respond to the consultation before it closes on the 27th of October and urged road users to respond as soon as they can.