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Highway Code changes in Northern Ireland

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The Highway Code dictates the rules of the road

There have been major changes to the Highway Code in Britain that came into effect in January 2022. The Highway Code is a set of information, advice, guidance and mandatory rules for road users. It was originally published in 1931 and has been updated many times to reflect the current realities of road use. However, Northern Ireland has a Highway Code of its own, initially published in 1978, and the changes will not be automatically included.

The Highway Code for Northern Ireland  

The Highway Code for Northern Ireland is based on the Highway Code (for Great Britain) but there are some differences. Despite them, The Highway Code for NI does tend to get updated to reflect the counterpart changes shortly after they go into effect in England, Scotland and Wales. It could therefore be reasonably expected that the Highway Code for Northern Ireland will see the same changes, or at least similar, relatively soon.  

If you would like to read the Highway Code for NI, you can find it here.

What has changed in the Highway Code (GB)?

The significant changes include the introduction of what is being referred to as a hierarchy of risk which sees pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders prioritised over motorists. Additionally, cyclists have more responsibility to be aware of pedestrians.

Cyclists are afforded additional space on the roads. New rules mean cars should leave at least 1.5m of room when overtaking. The guidance also states it can be safer for cyclists to ride two abreast, as opposed to a single file. Cyclists are now being instructed to ride in the centre of the lane when traffic is slow-moving or on a quiet road and to move to the left should a car come up behind them and it is safe to do so.

The Dutch Reach has been officially included in the Highway Code for the first time. Although it has been recommended by organisations such as Cycling UK for a while. It is a method of opening a car door that sees the driver or passenger use the hand furthest from the door to open it. It makes it necessary to turn the body, making it easier to see if a cyclist or motorcyclist is about to pass. You can see a demonstration in the video below.

Another major change is that drivers turning into a road must now give right of way to pedestrians wishing to cross.

If you would like to read the Highway Code for GB, you can find it here.

Staying safe on Northern Ireland’s roads

A robust and well-considered Highway Code helps to keep deaths on our road amongst the lowest in Europe. But, accidents do sometimes happen. If you’ve been involved in an accident as a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, we can help. Visit Road Traffic Accident Claims to learn more about our services or contact us for a free initial consultation. 

The Department for Infrastructure recently closed its Consultation on the Proposed Content of the new Road Safety Strategy for Northern Ireland to 2030 which may go on to inform the content of the Highway Code for Northern Ireland. This article will be updated as required.


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