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All change with the Highway Code.

May 2011 

highway codeFor many people of our age, it has been a long time since we passed our driving test.

In the intervening years, things have changed quite dramatically. Traffic has become busier, faster and bigger. To offset this, the rules of the road have been changed and updated over the years.

Yet how many of us have revisited the Highway Code and checked we are really up to date on our knowledge? In fact, the Highway Code was 80 years old last month so this could be an auspicious time to obtain the latest edition and check that you are really familiar with the new regulations and recommendations.

Just glancing through the new Highway Code brings some interesting new aspects that were unlikely to have been around when you took your original test.

The blue rectangular signs, indicating information, are interesting. For instance, would you recognise the sign that indicates a lane designated for use by HOVs? Do you even know what HOVs are? (high occupancy vehicles). Would you recognise the “withflow bus lane ahead” sign which can be used by pedal cycles and taxis but not car drivers. Certainly things appear quite a lot more complex than in “our day”!

Another blue rectangular sign indicates Home Zone Entry. That sign definitely wasn’t around when I took my test.

The red triangles are warning signs and I love the picture of a car hitting a road bump in the grounding warning sign. We all know the damage hitting road bumps can do to a modern car, so it is a sign worth remembering.

The laws and regulations for powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters are also worth looking at, again an area of traffic which has increased dramatically in recent years. These vehicles must not travel faster than 4mph on pavements or in pedestrian areas and the operators must give pedestrians priority.

Parking is today a total minefield. Most of us park with care and consideration and therefore manage to steer clear of the many laws than now govern where you can stop. However, there is a myriad of different rules and regulations for parking and many people do not fully understand the implications from many such as the controlled parking zones, or the difference between red and yellow lines on a kerb.

Even if you don’t drive, the Highway Code has useful information on aspects such as pedestrian safety barriers.

And just to show how things have changed – there is even an online version you can visit; at http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/index.htm

Of course, that is just in the UK. More and more of us are now popping over to the continent with our cars and that is another area where things are much much stricter than they were even 20 or 30 years ago. Today you really need to be on top of the different European traffic laws. For instance, in Austria by law you have to carry a first aid kit in a car and they can issue on the spot fines for people failing to do this. In many countries including France and Spain it is essential you carry a high visibility jacket in the car. A good place to get overseas driving information is the AA – log into http://shop.theaa.com/content/driving-in-europe for the main requirements in Europe.

All this is a long way from when my mother learned to drive – she didn’t even need to take a driving test and compulsory testing was only introduced in 1935.
But today things are not only more complicated; they are also more dangerous. It makes real sense to update oneself with the latest Highway Code before hitting the road in the busy summer traffic.


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