Manchester-based personal injury firm Express Solicitors have criticised the government for a lack of investment in publicity ahead of a launch of significant changes to the highway code that they predict could cause chaos on the roads.
The law firm handles thousands of personal injury claims each year following road accidents, including cycling accident claims, and are concerned the new changes haven’t been effectively communicated to drivers – leading to a possible backlash for cyclists and other vulnerable road users.
Rachel Price, Partner in the Road Traffic Accidents department, said: “We’re very concerned for the welfare of vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists if motorists are not fully aware of the major changes to the Code. Drivers will now be obliged to give vulnerable road users the right of way in scenarios where previously the driver had the right of way.
“This might mean a pedestrian waiting to cross – who now has right of way, steps out to cross and the driver fails to slow down and stop, causing a serious accident.
In areas of high congestion, for example outside schools, the changes could create frustration for motorists who experience longer delays due to the change in right of way.
Cyclists could also be put at risk from unaware drivers as Price explains: “Cyclists are being advised to cycle in the middle of the lane where possible and drivers are expected to leave them more room when overtaking. We know the sometimes fractious relationship between these road users and my worry is these Code changes will create more situations for road rage incidents to occur.
“The government has failed to ensure that motorists are aware of their new obligations, and we predict a worsening situation before it gets any better”
Only a third of drivers were aware of the new rules when asked in December in an AA poll, and there has been no real publicity from the government on this since then.
Price concludes: “To be clear, we fully support increasing protection for vulnerable road users. We unfortunately deal with so many serious and avoidable accidents so understand first hand the dangers on the road. However, these changes have not been adequately publicised, the government has failed to ensure that motorists are aware of their new obligations, and we predict a worsening situation before it gets any better.”