The Highway Code is a set of information, advice, guides and mandatory rules for road users in the United Kingdom. Its objective is to promote road safety. The Highway Code applies to all road users including pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists, as well as motorcyclists and drivers. It gives information on road signs, road markings, vehicle markings, and road safety. There are annexes on vehicle maintenance, licence requirements, documentation, penalties, and vehicle security.
The Highway Code was first published in 1931, and has been regularly updated to reflect current practices.It is prepared by the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and is published by The Stationery Office in electronic form and as a printed book.
The Great Britain version, available in English and Welsh, applies to England, Scotland and Wales, but regional specific signs such as driver location signs in England or bilingual signs in Scotland and Wales are not covered. The Northern Ireland version, available in English and Irish, applies to Northern Ireland.
The origins of the code can be traced back to 1920 when the Departmental Committee on the Regulation of Motor Vehicles announced that "a compulsory and uniform code of signals for all road vehicles is to be brought into operation".Drivers in London had evolved a system for signalling their intentions to turn right or stop, using their arm, and this was seen to be of such benefit that it should be required and standardised as a code of behaviour across the country. The code allowed the driver to use either his own arm or a dummy arm – which had obvious benefits in wet weather for drivers with the luxury of an enclosed cab, or for drivers using left-hand-drive vehicles, as in imported American cars. The intention to bring in the compulsory code was delayed and in successive years the code was expanded including whip signals for horse-drawn vehicles, and signals made by policemen controlling junctions.
In 1923 a booklet costing one penny was published by His Majesty's Stationery Office and approved by the Home Office (and Scottish Office). Entitled Traffic Signals to be used by the Police and Drivers of Vehicles, this booklet arose from discussions between the Police and The Automobile Association.In subsequent years, in addition to being promoted by the automobile associations, the code was publicised using posters by the National Safety First Association (which still continues this work, having been renamed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 1936).
The introduction of The Highway Code was one of the provisions of the wide-reaching Road Traffic Act 1930. Costing one penny, the first edition of the code was published on 14 April 1931. It contained just 21 pages of advice, including the arm signals to be given by drivers and police officers controlling traffic.The second edition, considerably expanded, appeared in 1934, and now illustrated road signs for the first time. During its preparation the Ministry of Transport consulted with the Pedestrians' Association.
Further major revisions followed after the Second World War so that, for example, references to trams were still included in the 1954 version but disappeared after that. (Blackpool was for decades the only place in the UK with a tram system. Tramway rules returned to the Code in 1994, after the first modern tram systems in Britain had opened.) Motorway driving was included in the fifth edition. The sixth edition, in 1968, used photographs as well as drawings for the first time, and also updated the illustrations of road signs to take the new 'continental' designs into account. The 70-page 1978 edition introduced the Green Cross Code for pedestrians and orange badges for unskilled drivers. The format was changed to a 'taller' size in the 1990s. An electronic Highway Code app followed in 2012.
Between July and October 2020 the government consulted on proposed code changes to improve safety for vulnerable road users, particularly cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders.The main changes open for discussion were:
Certain rules in The Highway Code are legal requirements, and are identified by the words 'must' or 'must not', presented in bold blockcapitals. In these cases, the rules also include references to the corresponding legislation. Offenders may be cautioned, given licence penalty points, fined, banned from driving, or imprisoned, depending on the severity of the offence. Although failure to comply with the other rules would not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, the Highway Code may be used in court under the Road Traffic Act to establish liability. These include advisory rules with wording 'should' and 'should not' or 'do' (or a simple imperative) and 'do not'. In general, only the latest official printed version of the Highway Code should be used, but in legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal, the version current at the time of the incident would apply.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 states:
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 (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the [1981 c. 14.] Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the [1985 c. 67.] Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.
The Highway Code is available in the following forms:
Traffic on roads consists of road users including pedestrians, ridden or herded animals, vehicles, streetcars, buses and other conveyances, either singly or together, while using the public way for purposes of travel.
A roundabout is a type of round (about) intersection or junction in which road traffic is permitted to flow in one direction around a central island, and priority is typically given to traffic already in the junction.
An intersection is an at-grade junction where two or more roads converge, diverge, meet or cross. Major intersections are often delineated by gores and may be classified by road segments, traffic controls and lane design.
A pedestrian crossing or crosswalk is a place designated for pedestrians to cross a road, street or avenue. The term "pedestrian crossing" is also used in some international treaties that pertain to road traffic and road signs, such as the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic and the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals.
Traffic lights, traffic signals, stoplights or robots are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings, and other locations to control flows of traffic.
Road traffic safety refers to the methods and measures used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured. Typical road users include pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, vehicle passengers, horse riders, and passengers of on-road public transport.
Jaywalking occurs when a pedestrian walks in or crosses a roadway that has traffic, other than at a suitable crossing point, or otherwise in disregard of traffic rules. The term originated with jay-drivers, people who drove horse-drawn carriages and automobiles on the wrong side of the road, before taking its current meaning.
Hand signals are given by cyclists and some motorists to indicate their intentions to other traffic. Under the terms of the Vienna Convention on Traffic, bicycles are considered to be vehicles and cyclists are considered to be drivers. The traffic codes of most countries reflect this.
Bicycle law in California is the parts of the California Vehicle Code that set out the law for persons cycling in California, and a subset of bicycle law in the United States. In general, pretty much all the same rights and responsibilities that apply to car drivers apply to bicycle riders as well.
Vehicular cycling is the practice of riding bicycles on roads in a manner that is in accordance with the principles for driving in traffic, and in a way that places responsibility for safety on the individual.
Overtaking or passing is the act of one vehicle going past another slower moving vehicle, travelling in the same direction, on a road. The lane used for overtaking another vehicle is almost always a passing lane further from the road shoulder which is to the left in places that drive on the right and to the right in places that drive on the left.
Road signs in the United Kingdom and in its associated Crown dependencies and overseas territories conform broadly to European design norms, though a number of signs are unique: direction signs omit European route numbers and road signs generally use the Imperial System of units, unlike the rest of Europe.
Road signs in Sweden are regulated in Vägmärkesförordningen, VMF (2007:90), and are to be placed 2 metres from the road with the sign 1.6 m from the base for motorized roads. Except for route numbers, there are a maximum of three signs on a pole, with the most important sign at the top. All signs have a reflective layer added on selected parts of the sign as is custom in European countries; most larger signs also have their own illumination.
A turn on red is a principle of law permitting vehicles at a traffic light showing a red signal to turn into the direction of traffic nearer to them when the way is clear, without having to wait for a green signal. It is intended to allow traffic to resume moving provided proper caution is observed; however, various studies find that it increases the risk of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians.
For driving in the United States, each state and territory has its own traffic code or rules of the road, although most of the rules of the road are similar for the purpose of uniformity, given that all states grant reciprocal driving privileges to each other's licensed drivers. There is also a "Uniform Vehicle Code" which was proposed by a private, non-profit group, based upon input by its members. The UVC was not adopted in its entirety by any state. As with uniform acts in general, some states adopted selected sections as written or with modifications, while others created their own sui generis statutes touching upon the same subject matter. As required by the federal Highway Safety Act of 1966, all states and territories have adopted substantially similar standards for the vast majority of signs, signals, and road surface markings, based upon the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Many of the standard rules of the road involve consistent interpretation of the standard signs, signals, and markings such as what to do when approaching a stop sign, or the driving requirements imposed by a double yellow line on the street or highway. Many agencies of the federal government have also adopted their own traffic codes for enforcement on the grounds of their respective facilities.
An all-way stop – also known as a four-way stop – is a traffic management system which requires vehicles on all the approaches to a road intersection to stop at the intersection before proceeding through it. Designed for use at low traffic-volume locations, the arrangement is common in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Liberia, and Mexico, as well as in a number of, usually rural, locations in Australia where visibility on the junction approaches is particularly poor. The stop signs at such intersections may be supplemented with additional plates stating the number of approaches.
The Highway Traffic Act (HTA) is legislation in Ontario, Canada, which regulates the licensing of vehicles, classification of traffic offences, administration of loads, classification of vehicles and other transport-related issues. First introduced in 1923 to deal with increasing accidents during the early years of motoring in Ontario, and replacing earlier legislation such as the Highway Travel Act, there have been amendments due to changes to driving conditions and new transportation trends. For example, in 2009, the Act was revised to ban the use of cell phones while driving.
Cycling infrastructure refers to all infrastructure permissible for use by cyclists, including the network of roads and streets used by motorists, except where cyclists are excluded, along with bikeways from which motor vehicles are excluded – including bike paths, bike lanes, cycle tracks, rail trails and, where permitted, sidewalks. Cycling infrastructure also includes amenities such as bike racks for parking, shelters, service centers and specialized traffic signs and signals. Cycling modal share is strongly associated with the size of local cycling infrastructure.
Driving in India is governed by various legal powers and in some cases is subject to the passing of a driving test. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, a branch of the Government of India, is the apex body for formulation and administration of the rules, regulations and laws relating to road transport, national highways and transport research, in order to increase the mobility and efficiency of the road transport system in India. Indian traffic drives on the left.
Terminology related to road transport—the transport of passengers or goods on paved routes between places—is diverse, with variation between dialects of English. There may also be regional differences within a single country, and some terms differ based on the side of the road traffic drives on. This glossary is an alphabetical listing of road transport terms.