How does the Highway Code relate to a road injury claim?

The Highway Code is a series of rules created for all road users in England, Scotland and Wales to reduce the risk of road traffic accidents.

English motorway with busy traffic and road signs

When it was first published in 1931, even though there were only 2.3 million motor vehicles on the road, 7,000 people were killed in road accidents.

The Code's aim is to significantly reduce road casualties by ensuring that road users know and apply its rules. Breaching these rules may lead to prosecution, or to a road user being found liable for causing an accident.

The Code also provides a framework to assist with establishing negligence for personal injury claims, including:

The rules of the Highway Code

Many of the rules in the Code are legal requirements, and anyone ignoring them commits a criminal offence. This may result in fines, penalty points or disqualification - or in the more serious cases - imprisonment.

Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT' and include an abbreviated reference to the legislation which creates the offence.

Some of the key legislation is as follows:

  • Road Safety Act 2006
  • Road Traffic Acts of 1984, 1988 or 1991
  • Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002
  • Use of Invalid Carriages on Highways Regulations 1988
  • Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997
  • Motorways Traffic (England & Wales) Regulations 1982
  • Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989
  • Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981

Most of these regulations apply on all roads throughout Great Britain, although there are some exceptions. In England and Wales a road is defined as ‘any highway and any other road to which the public has access and includes bridges over which a road passes'. Scotland has slightly more extended definition.

This definition of ‘road' generally includes footpaths, bridleways and cycle tracks, as well as many roadways and driveways on private land. It also includes many car parks.

Some serious driving offences - such as drink-driving - apply to all public places, for example public car parks.

Rules that use advisory wording such as 'SHOULD/SHOULD NOT' or 'DO/DO NOT' are not legal requirements, and therefore will not lead to prosecution. However anyone in breach of them may be found liable for any accident caused by their negligence.

A court would use a breach of the Highway Code to establish a defendant's or a claimant's liability when assessing a claim for personal injury.

Keeping up to date

With over 27 million vehicles in the UK, the Highway Code has contributed to reducing the number of fatal accidents to fewer than 2,000 annually.

The government is committed to continuing to reduce the number of casualties on the roads and is constantly updating the law on road safety.

Road users have a responsibility to keep up to date with the Highway Code.

Ignorance of its rules will not be allowed as a defence in a court.

What happened?

The claims process for a road traffic injury will depend on where and how the accident happened. Click the icons below for more information:

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