A fifth of UK motorists are still unaware of changes to the Highway Code that came into force in January, according to new research. A study of 1,000 UK drivers by IAM RoadSmart found 20 percent were completely unaware of changes to the code, which now sees vulnerable road users take precedence over motorised vehicles.

The changes to the code were introduced on January 29, 2022, and include a new hierarchy of road users. This risk-based policy is designed so those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest damage bear the greatest responsibility. The updates also included changes to priorities at junctions, giving pedestrians priority over cars, motorcycles and cyclists.

However, should IAM RoadSmart’s sample of 1,000 people be representative of the public as a whole, the research could mean more than seven million of the UK’s 35.9 million drivers are unaware of the changes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, therefore, more than half (51 percent) of drivers questioned said they think the government has “not done a good job” of communicating the changes to the Highway Code.

Cyclist and traffic pass through Victoria Park Bath UK

Concerningly, more than half (51 percent) of respondents to the survey admitted they couldn’t remember the last time they referred to the Highway Code, while over a third (34 percent) said they hadn’t read the code in more than a year. However, 83 percent of respondents said they thought changes and regular updates to the Highway Code were “important”.

Neil Greig, the director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, said the lack of knowledge about the changes could cause “more conflict” on British roads, rather than solving issues.

“An alarming number of motorists are driving on Britain’s roads without awareness of key changes which fundamentally shift the dynamics of shared use,” he said. “This is a serious safety risk which could actually see the updated code causing more conflict on our roads rather than less.”

“Before the roll out of the new Highway Code changes, we warned that a huge education campaign would be required to ensure the amendments are disseminated and fully adopted by the millions of existing drivers, motorcyclists and road users. Unfortunately, our survey shows that the government education campaign did not effectively communicate the changes, or perhaps even reach the eyes and ears of drivers in the first place.

“Following a short PR campaign at the time of the changes, a bigger campaign is now planned for the late spring. Our survey shows that this cannot come quickly enough to ensure the proper messaging is getting through. We also think that an easily accessible and engaging online learning resource for existing drivers would be a very useful addition to improve knowledge. In future, we would urge the Department for Transport to be more realistic about the impact that simply changing a seldom-read document will have on the behaviour and safety of road users.”

Helmet and bike lying on the road on a pedestrian crossing