What role does the Highway Code play in road traffic law?
How is the Highway Code involved with Road Traffic Law?
The Highway Code is the official guide for all road users in Great Britain. There are 307 different rules of the road that users are to adhere to. It is in place to give a guide on how to drive safely to protect both the driver and others around them. The following is a list of the areas that the Highway Code covers:
- Rules for drivers and motorcyclists (this will be gone through in more detail further through the article)
- General rules techniques and advice for all drivers and riders: Information on signals, lighting requirements, how to control a vehicle, different speed limits and other necessary technique advice for drivers.
- Using the road: Details on overtaking rules, road junctions, roundabouts and pedestrian crossings are included.
- Road users requiring extra care: Advises road users to pay extra attention to other road user requiring extra care such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
- Driving in adverse weather conditions: Gives advice on how to drive differently in dangerous weather, details such as the extra breaking distance required in weathers such as rain, snow, ice and fog.
- Waiting and parking: Details on parking in controlled parking zones and at night.
- Motorways: All required information of how to drive on a motorway, distance between cars, overtaking and returning to the left hand lane.
- Breakdowns and incidents: What to do when you are involved in a break down or accident, such as what documentation is required, what safety signs should be put in a set distance in front of the incident and other such information
- Road works, level crossings and tramways: What to do with regard each individual situation a road user may find themselves in.
The most significant section that refers to road traffic law is the section on ‘rules for drivers and motorcyclists’ covered between rules 89 -102. This section gives advice on situations when not to drive and strict rules against driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The Highway code states “You MUST NOT drive with a breath alcohol level higher than 35 microgram’s/100 millilitres of breath or a blood alcohol level of more than 80 milligram’s/100 millilitres of blood”. It suggests that driver under alcohol with give the driver a false sense of confidence, reduced co-ordination and affect their judgement of speed. It refers to no set legal actions that will occur, this is not the purpose of the Highway Code. Its purpose is merely to advise and provide rules for safe driving.
The law becomes involved through road traffic law. The Highway Code itself is not law but any action that is seen to fail following the Highway Code might be used as evidence of negligence of a driver if any accident occurs.
Certain highway codes rules, such as the ‘don’t drink and drive’ rule, represent various road traffic laws and must be obeyed. The Road Traffic Act 1988 says;
“A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of the Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish any liability which is in question in those proceedings”
Showing how although the Highway Code is not directly applicable to law, any provisions made within it should be adhered to, in the case that failure to do so could result in the individual ending up in court and being held liable for such negligent acts.
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