DRIVERS need to be aware of new rules for motorways and high speed roads that are coming into effect today (Tuesday).

The major update to the Highway Code aims to make England’s motorways and high-speed roads even safer.

More than 3,200 people and organisations took part in a consultation to help National Highways and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) to decide on the details.

In total, 33 existing rules in The Highway Code have been amended and two new rules introduced.

Amendments have also been made to the additional information within The Highway Code and its annexes.

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Updating The Highway Code is one of the measures set out in the Transport Secretary’s 18-point action plan to improve safety and public confidence on All Lane Running motorways.

The new rules come into effect today and are live on The Highway Code pages of GOV.UK.

The update includes clearer advice on:

  • where to stop in an emergency
  • the importance of not driving in a lane closed by a Red X
  • how variable speed limits are used to keep traffic flowing.

There is also updated guidance on key factors that contribute to safety-related incidents, including driving while tired, unroadworthy vehicles, safe towing, tailgating and driving in roadworks.

National Highways chief executive Nick Harris said: “Although our motorways and major A-roads are already among the very safest in the world this new guidance will help road users be even safer.

“It includes clear, practical information such as how variable speed limits work and advice about where to stop in an emergency. This will help drivers use our roads safely and feel safe doing so, and I urge all drivers to read it.”

You can read the updated Highway Code here.

Below is an overview of the updates and new rules:

Rule 91

• drivers need to get sufficient sleep before a long journey
• emergency areas and hard shoulders on motorways are not to be used for rest breaks in the event of driver sleepiness
• information exists in Rule 262 on appropriate places to take a break when travelling on motorways

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Rule 97

• drivers MUST have a valid licence and insurance
• vehicles MUST be in a legal and roadworthy condition
• basic vehicle maintenance and safety checks should be carried out before drivers set off
• sufficient vehicle fuel or charge is required for each planned journey
• for emergency use, drivers are recommended to take a charged mobile telephone, containing emergency numbers, and high-visibility clothing

Rule 98

• reduced speed limits may apply when towing
• it may take longer to build up speed when towing
• trailers must be in a roadworthy condition, including tyres, lights and brakes
• drivers may need to use towing mirrors when towing
• vehicles which are towing should not be using the outside lanes on motorways
• trailers are required by law to be fitted with a secondary coupling device
• further information is available about safe towing practices

Rule 124

• speed limits for motorhomes and motor caravans
• speed limits for buses or coaches over 12 metres long
• speed limits for special types of vehicles that are overweight or oversized
• speed limits can be changed by signs
• speed limits are enforced by the police

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Rule 126

• what tailgating is, how it occurs, why it is dangerous and how to avoid it
• dangerous and careless driving offences, such as tailgating, are enforced by the police
• safe distances between vehicles on icy roads are ten times greater

Rule 138

• the rule for overtaking also applies to dual carriageways with more than three lanes

Driving in adverse weather conditions (226 to 237)

Rule 240

• emergency areas on motorways are not to be used for stopping or parking, except in an emergency

Rule 253

• provisional car licence holders can only drive on the motorway when they are accompanied by an approved driving instructor and are driving a car displaying red L plates (or D plates in Wales)

Rule 256

• motorway signs and signals can apply to all lanes or individual lanes
• how to recognise motorway signs and signals

Rule 257

• how drivers should adjust their driving behaviour on approaching amber flashing lights
• how to recognise a sign displaying amber flashing lights

Rule 258

• the display of red flashing light signals and a red ‘X’ on a sign identify a closed lane in which people, stopped vehicles and other hazards may be present
• drivers should follow the instructions on signs in advance of a closed lane to move safely to an open lane
• there can be several hazards in a closed lane
• blocking closed lanes may prevent people from getting the help they need and delay reopening of the lanes
• where a closed left lane crosses an exit slip road, the exit cannot be used
• the road is closed when red flashing light signals and closures of all lanes are shown on a sign
• how to recognise signs displaying red flashing light signals and lane or road closures
• lane and road closures indicated by red flashing lights are enforced by the police

Rule 261

• drivers must not exceed the speed limit displayed on a sign
• drivers must not exceed the maximum speed limit of their vehicle and the road type
• speed limits are enforced by the police

Rule 262

• information is available in rule 91 about ensuring fitness to drive and taking breaks
• service areas and other rest and refreshment facilities are available when travelling along motorways

Rule 263
• it is illegal to reverse along any part of a motorway, including slip roads, hard shoulders and emergency areas

Rule 264

• drivers should move over, if safe to do so, when approaching people and vehicles stopped on the hard shoulder or in an emergency area to create more space for the people and stopped vehicles

Rule 266

• road markings may also be used to indicate directions on the approach to some junctions

Rule 269

• the hard shoulder is for emergency use only
• on some motorways, the hard shoulder becomes an extra lane during periods of congestion; signs identify when the extra lane can be used
• on motorways where the hard shoulder becomes an extra lane during periods of congestion, emergency areas exist for use in the event of an emergency or breakdown
• the hard shoulder can only be used as an extra lane when a speed limit is shown

New Rule 270

• emergency areas are located along motorways without hard shoulders or where the hard shoulder is used some of the time as an extra lane
• how to recognise an emergency area
• emergency areas are for emergency use only

Rule 271

• drivers must not stop in an emergency area on a motorway, except in an emergency

New Rule 275

• a place of relative safety is where the people and vehicles involved in a breakdown or other incident are less likely to be at risk from moving traffic
• the safest place to stop in the event of a breakdown or incident is a location which is designed for parking
• on motorways and other high-speed roads, the safest place to stop is a service area
• other places of relative safety on motorways and other high-speed roads include lay-bys, emergency areas and hard shoulders
• hard shoulders provide less protection than other places of relative safety

Rule 277

• the steps to follow if their vehicle develops a problem (get left, get safe and get help)
• the importance of staying away from their vehicle and remaining aware of other traffic
• what to do if they break down in a live traffic lane
• how to identify and communicate their location to emergency services

Rule 278

• how to rejoin the motorway from an emergency area
• the importance of using the SOS phone in emergency areas
• obstructions and debris may be present on the hard shoulder

Rule 279

• the importance of switching on hazard warning lights to warn other motorists of a stopped vehicle
• the need to keep seatbelts on when staying in a broken-down vehicle
• as an alternative to calling 999, there is the availability of an SOS button in some vehicles for contacting the emergency services
• how drivers who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired can communicate with the emergency service using the emergency SMS service

Rule 280

• on motorways, drivers and passengers must not retrieve items that fall from a vehicle or attempt to move an obstruction
• in the event of a fallen item or other obstruction on a motorway, drivers should stop in a place of relative safety and contact the emergency services to report the incident and request help

Rule 281

• warning signs or flashing lights indicate that people, including the emergency services, traffic officers, and recovery workers, may be working in the road

Rule 282

• drivers should remain alert for hazards and not slow down unnecessarily when passing an incident

Rule 283

• if drivers stop to give assistance, they should stop in a place of relative safety and not put themselves or their passengers in danger
• how the emergency services can be contacted using an emergency telephone, a mobile telephone, or, if a vehicle has one, its SOS button
• further information is available about giving first aid
• there may be a need to exchange details in accordance with rule 286

Rule 286

• drivers should stop in a place of relative safety if they are involved in a collision

Rule 288

• vehicles displaying amber flashing lights are likely to slow down and turn into a works area
• drivers should leave extra space between themselves and a vehicle that is displaying amber flashing lights

Rule 289

• where large ‘Keep Left’ or ’Keep Right’ signs are displayed on a works vehicle, drivers must move over to the next lane and pass the works vehicle on the side indicated and must not return to the closed lane until it is safe to do so
• works vehicles displaying the sign, ‘convoy vehicle no overtaking’, must not be overtaken

Rule 290

• lanes in road works may be narrower than normal and will be marked by studs or temporary road markings
• in narrow lanes, drivers need to keep a good distance from the vehicle in front to be able to clearly see the edges of the lane ahead
• at the start and finish of contraflow systems in road works, there may be areas of adverse camber; drivers need to slow down and leave extra space when these areas are signed
• areas marked off by cones contain significant hazards

Light signals controlling traffic

Updates to ensure readers understand:

• what a motorway sign that displays multiple pieces of information looks like

Signals to other road users

Updates to add an image and ensure readers understand:

• what hazard light signals are and when they should be used

Traffic signs

Updates to add an image and ensure readers understand:

• what a variable speed limit information sign looks like

Annex 4. The road user and the law

Updates to ensure readers understand:

• “emergency areas” (as used in the proposed amendments to The Highway Code) are defined in law as “emergency refuge areas”