Official UK Highway Code book

Most UK drivers haven’t read Highway Code since test

When was the last time you brushed up?

A significant 55 per cent of the UK’s drivers admit that they haven’t looked at the Highway Code since they passed their driving test, according to a new study.

The majority of drivers who took part in the survey — 83 per cent — said they had passed their driving test more than ten years ago. This presents a serious issue for road safety according to GoCompare, which conducted the research.

Twenty-four updates since 2015

Since 2015, the Highway Code has been updated 24 times, and multiple changes to individual sections of the Code have been made on each of those occasions.

For instance, in 2022 the mobile phone use regulation was updated to make it illegal to even touch the phone while driving — previously, under the 2003 regulations, the law had said that it was only an offence to use the phone while driving. The consequences for touching your phone while driving was raised to a £1,000 fine and six penalty points with the 2022 update.

Also in 2022, the rules of the road were updated to change the hierarchy of road users, making it the explicit responsibility of drivers of cars and vans to keep other, more vulnerable road users — especially cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians — safe.

There is a marked difference in the types of people who keep abreast of the changes.

According to the study, 51 per cent of male drivers have checked the Highway Code since passing their original driving test, compared to 38 per cent of women.

Younger drivers least likely to re-read the Code

Older drivers are also more likely to make regular check-ups of the regulations — 60 per cent of drivers aged over 60 have re-read the Code since their test. That compares to 44 per cent of those aged between 40 and 59, and only 30 per cent of those aged 25 to 39.

A full 75 per cent — three quarters — of those aged between 18 and 24 have not re-read the Code since passing their test. GoCompare pointed out that young drivers with less experience on the roads are more prone to accidents, but knowing the rules of the road helps to reduce this risk.

“The Highway Code is essential reading for all road users, not just learners,” said Tom Banks, car insurance expert at GoCompare. “It’s frequently updated to ensure that drivers remain aware of the latest changes in rules and regulations, so it’s alarming to see that more than half have never revisited it, putting themselves and others at risk.”

Banks highlighted the fact that road users can “easily stay up to date” with the Highway Code through the official government website, which also allows people to sign up to receive email notifications when any new changes are published, as well as follow the latest news on the official Highway Code social media channels.

There’s also an official Highway Code app, which includes interactive content such as quizzes, while for those who don’t have access to the internet, Banks reminded drivers that fully updated versions of the printed Highway Code book are available in shops.

While the research is concerning, official Department for Transport figures show that there has been a general downward trend in the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) in Britain since 2013. During Covid-19, the numbers dropped significantly due to a reduction in road traffic before returning to near the pre-pandemic levels. The trend since has continued towards lower casualty figures, with 29,429 KSIs in the year ending June 2023, a decline of one per cent compared to the year before.

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