On 1 March 2021, the government launched a public consultation on its review of the Highway Code with the aim of improving safety on motorways and high-speed roads. Ronnie Cohen comments on the proposals and makes some of his own.
This consultation closed on 29 March 2021. Many of the proposed changes to the Code improve clarity, brevity, make greater use of bullet points and images and reflect updates to the regulations and to road transport (e.g. smart motorways).
I have submitted my views on the proposals and gave Highways England, which is responsible for them, credit for improvements where credit is due. Every time I disagreed with a proposed rule, I explained what changes I would like to see. There are also a few major changes I would welcome in the revised Highway Code.
For the sake of consistency, the new Highway Code should express all short distances in metres only without the use of conversions. Given almost 50 years of metric education and the widespread use of metres in British society, most people should be familiar with metres. Britons are expected to know how long a metre is. The government uses metres in its social distancing guidelines for limiting the spread of COVID-19 and there are no reported problems with the exclusive use of metres.
The current version of the Highway Code is inconsistent on conversions of metres. It includes imperial conversions in some places and omits them in others. I would drop the use of feet completely except for showing and describing signs that must display feet and inches (e.g. restriction signs).
Metres are converted to feet and car lengths for stopping distances. The use of car lengths for stopping distances is used nowhere else in the Highway Code. I don’t think that asking drivers to learn and remember stopping distances in three different measurement units is helpful. Why overload us with superfluous information?
The new Highway Code should explain the meaning of the information displayed on driver location signs and marker posts. And, yes, don’t shy away from saying that they show distances in kilometres from fixed reference points on the road network. The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has kept drivers in the dark about these emergency features on the motorway despite the fact that they are there for our benefit. The location reference information is very useful for drivers. It helps to see how far they are from the start of the motorway and see distances between points on the motorway by working out the differences between numbers shown on different marker posts and driver location signs. When your car breaks down on a motorway and you are stuck in the middle of nowhere, you surely want to know where you are.
There is almost nothing written about them in the Highway Code. Wikipedia and the AA do a much better job than the DfT of explaining driver location signs to the general public. I welcome the proposed rule 275 which says marker posts and driver location signs should be used during an incident to report the location to the emergency services. However, it merely tells drivers to quote the numbers and letters on them. It does not explain what these numbers and letters mean. Why do we have to search online to find out their meaning? Why can’t we find this information in the Highway Code?
I have proposed changes to measurement units on SOS phone signs only. I suggested that they show metres and kilometres instead of yards and miles to make them consistent with driver location signs and marker posts. This may require authorisation by the Secretary of State for Transport.
Driver location signs are located at 500 metre intervals and marker posts are located at 100 metre intervals. The use of metres and kilometres on the SOS signs will help drivers to visualise the distance to the nearest emergency phone by using the sight of the marker posts.
When the SOS sign is shown in metres, the driver just needs to knock off the last two digits to get the number of marker posts to pass to reach the emergency phone. When the SOS sign is shown in kilometres, the driver just needs to multiply the figure by ten to work out the number of marker posts to pass to reach the emergency phone.
Only the dual unit versions of height, width and length restriction signs should be shown in the new Highway Code to reflect the current regulations. Dual units on new and replacement restriction signs became mandatory in TSRGD 2016. Imperial-only restriction signs are being phased out and should no longer appear in the Highway Code.
You can find the government’s consultation at Review of The Highway Code to improve safety on motorways and high-speed roads – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). This web page contains links to two documents; one is a summary of the consultation proposals and the other is a detailed document with original and proposed rules.
Driver Location Signs: