While we’re on the subject of the Highway Code and how drivers interpret (or just completely ignore) it, West Midlands Police’s Mark Hodson – one of the co-founders of the pioneering cycling safety initiative Operation Close Pass – posted a lengthy thread this morning on the success of last year’s much-discussed updates.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the changes, Hodson assessed how one of the updates – that motorists should now give way to pedestrians at junctions – has positively contributed, or not, to the behaviour of motorists.
Here’s what he had to say:
“How does writing a few extra lines in a book that the majority of drivers haven’t read in literally decades positively effect behaviours?
“Well, let’s look at one particular part of the changes, the priority/right of way given to pedestrians at junctions. Now it’s a ‘should’ rule, not a ‘must’, so there are circumstances where a driver who thinks it is not safe to give way to the pedestrians could justify not giving priority, but that obviously is on an evidential basis and most likely will be due to another offending driver’s behaviour... tailgating.
“So, I monitored a junction over the last three months to see if the new rule was effective. This is the junction [below], perfect as it has excellent all-round visibility so pedestrians can be easily seen.
“The minor road has speed cushions to slow approaching traffic, meaning awareness should be high from slowing drivers and the pedestrian refuge highlights the fact that pedestrians will be crossing at the location.
“The main road is a 30mph limit with speed camera signage keeping speeds low – well, “lower” – and lastly the drivers turning right off the main road have a filter so there’s plenty of opportunity to wait there until the junction is free of pedestrians.
“Now it doesn’t look very busy on the photos and unless the school run is on it generally is quiet, again making it perfect to assess driver behaviour around the new rule.
“So over three months, just over 200 interactions between drivers and pedestrians were monitored by myself at varying times of the day, usually whilst walking the hounds or going to the local shop where drivers could and should have given way to the pedestrian present as per the now-year old rule.
“Only 11 drivers gave way. Interestingly on seven of those positive interactions the pedestrian was walking a dog.
“But I’m fairly sure that if you did this monitoring two years previously the results would be roughly the same – the new rule is ignored or not known by the vast majority of drivers apart from the those eleven who were most likely considerate drivers who would give priority to the crossing pedestrian rule change or no rule change.
“So it's safe to conclude that wholesale driver behaviour has not been improved by the rule change, the few extra lines in the book didn't work...
> Highway Code changes: Cycling UK calls for long-term public awareness campaign to help produce a "mindset shift" on British roads
“So how do you change the careless and inconsiderate offending behaviour in contravention of the rule being regularly exhibited?
“Firstly the initial launch from the Department for Transport was underwhelming to say the least, the rule needs a lengthy high priority educational campaign to raise awareness to the point of no excuse.
“You then follow that up with a bespoke enforcement campaign akin to Operation Close Pass, where in the first 12-month phase educational alternatives, by way of a ten minute roadside input into the changes and why they are important, is given. Only then will you see the change in behaviour desired by the rule change in the Highway Code.
“Or you could introduce regular retesting… but that’s a thread for another day.”