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Road safety

Since I started my ultra niche solicitors firm, Biker Defence Solicitors, which caters for motorcyclists accused of road traffic offences, I've been paying a lot of attention to other drivers.

The one thing that has jumped out at me is that people seem to have difficulty obeying multiple part rules, e.g. Highway Code Rule 185: when approaching a roundabout you should give way to traffic approaching from the right (part 1) and give way to traffic already on the roundabout (part 2).  Another example comes from Rule 174 that governs those yellow box junctions that you must not enter unless your exit is clear (part 1) unless you are turning right and only traffic coming across the junction is preventing you from turning right out of the junction (part 2).  I should say here that I'm paraphrasing the rules and I realise that Rule 185 is more complex than I give it credit for, but I have set it out in the way it was always taught to me as a learner.

As well as my Highway Code I also have in front of me a copy of the flight operating procedures for a Piper PA-28 light aircraft.  Like the highway code, the flight operating procedures is a list of things you must do at each step of your journey, from getting in the aircraft and preparing for flight (in the Highway Code the equivalent rules are 89-102).  The flight operating procedures then take a pilot through pre-start checks, after engine start checks, take off and what to do on approach and landing.  There is also guidance for controlling the aircraft in flight and during emergencies etc.  The difference you notice between the flight operating procedures and the Highway Code is that the flight operating procedures do not include a single multiple step rule.

This pattern is largely repeated when you look at the Rules of the Air, which set out very clearly who has right of way.  No if's, no but's.  If two aircraft are on a converging course, the rule is "On the right, in the right".  Simple.  If two aircraft are approaching head-on, each aircraft must alter heading to the right.  These rules are so clear you read them and think, "but that's obvious" and they stick in your mind.

I wonder whether a similar approach might help drivers better understand and remember their responsibilities in their cars and on their motorbikes.  For example, instead of Rule 174 being a lengthy paragraph, why not simply "R174(a) When travelling straight ahead or turning left, you must not enter a box junction if your exit is blocked; (b) When turning right you may enter a box junction if only oncoming traffic is preventing you completing your right turn."

I seem to recall from my days studying psychology that the longer a sentence the harder it is for people to remember the bits in the middle.  So, I wonder whether a simplified set of Highway Code rules would help people to recall everything more clearly.

I'd also like to see a section at the start of the Highway Code that breaks rules down by priority or importance.  Rules about child restraints are probably completely irrelevant to 90% of 17 year olds passing their tests, whereas what happens when you drive like a prat on a wet country road in the middle of the night is something that is very important to know.  One of my friends managed to pass his test without ever learning that wet roads become slippery and you must driver slower... he found it out when we crashed through a ditch into a field one night.

These are just some ideas that have occurred to me recently.  I do not say that my style of Highway Code writing is more elegant... I don't even go so far as to say I am definitely right, but if I am then a very cheap re-write could do a lot to improve road safety.


  1. Now I thought that rules and laws were written in ambiguous language to keep you guys in business. How cynical is that?

    1. Haha, a good point, maybe I should keep my mouth shut!!

  2. In my experience the difficulty with people following the Highway Code is not a lack of clarity but a lack of caring about it. Forget 'on the right, in the right', for most drivers it's just "I am right, get out of my way".

  3. The Highway COde is NOT the law, only an interpretation, and on Yellow Box Junctions, is seriously flawed. Only if one stops in a YBJ due to stationary vehicles is an offence committed. A lorry driver crossed a YBJ, and got a ticket for stopping with the rear of the lorry in the box because of a pedestrian crossing ahead of the box. He got a PCN, which was overturned by the adjudicator because the claimed offence had not been committed

    1. Yes, Highway Code is not the law but if you can show a court that you obeyed the Highway Code then you are far more likely to win your case than if you failed to comply with it.

      In any case, I'm not really talking about the Highway Code from a legal point of view. I'm talking about a strategy to reduce accidents on the road. If the Highway Code contains such serious flaws as your lorry example, then that pretty much makes my point for me. Thanks.


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