New rules came into effect in February that are designed to improve road safety and as a car or van driver it's important you know what they are. Not only are safer roads better for society in general, but claims for bodily injury are a major contributor to the cost of car insurance.
Road user hierarchy
One of the main changes is the introduction of a formal 'road user hierarchy' which puts all road users into different groups, according to their potential to suffer the most harm.
The new Highway Code says:
"Everyone suffers when road collisions occur, whether they are physically injured or not. But those in charge of vehicles that can cause the greatest harm in the event of a collision bear the greatest responsibility to take care and reduce the danger they pose to others. This principle applies most strongly to drivers of large goods and passenger vehicles, followed by vans/minibuses, cars/taxis and motorcycles."
In short, you now have more responsibility over the safety of road users higher up the hierarchy, namely pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.
Giving way at junctions
The Highway Code now stipulates that at a junction drivers must now give way to pedestrians who are crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from you are turning.
Of course a pedestrian can't just jump out in front of you because of this change, but drivers need to be super careful especially as not everyone will know about these rule changes straight away.
More priority to cyclists
Drivers are now urged to give priority to cyclists in more situations, including when cyclists are:
approaching, passing or moving off from a junction
moving past or waiting alongside stationary or slow-moving traffic
travelling around a roundabout”
Using your phone
Using your phone to call or text whilst behind the wheel isn't just a really bad idea, it's also illegal. And now the rules are being strengthened further, with more 'phone activities' like taking photos or videos being added to the banned list.
The Dutch Reach technique
Vehicle drivers are now also being encouraged to adopt what is called the 'Dutch Reach technique' where you open your door using the hand furthest away from it. This is to encourage drivers to look over their shoulder and behind them before and whilst they are opening the door - the idea being you're then more likely to spot a cyclist or other road user who might be trying to overtake you.
You can find full details of the Highway Code changes at gov.uk.