The Highway Code

The Highway Code is the official road safety manual for the United Kingdom, first published in 1931. It contains 278 numbered rules that apply to all road users, including drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders. In addition to the rules, there is also information on road markings, road signs and vehicle markings, along with annexes that contain advice on vehicle maintenance, vehicle security, licence requirements, documentation and penalties.

Many of the rules in the Highway Code represent various road traffic laws, which means that anyone disobeying them will be committing a criminal offence, and may be fined, given penalty points on their licence, disqualified from driving or even sent to prison. These essential rules are identified by the words MUST / MUST NOT, along with a reference to the legislation which creates the offence. For example:

"79: Make sure that you are fit to drive. You MUST report to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) any health condition likely to affect your driving. (Law: Road Traffic Act 1988 sect 94)"

Whilst it may not be compulsory to follow the other numbered rules, it is highly advisable, as although failing to comply with these additional rules may not lead directly to prosecution, they may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under Traffic Acts to establish liability.

The Highway Code is essential reading for all road users - not just learner drivers. Not only does it cover the laws that apply to all users of the road, but it also includes guidance concerning driving in adverse weather conditions, parking, motorway driving, accidents and breakdowns, first aid, road works and railway level crossings. Knowing and applying this information could significantly reduce the number of road accident casualties, and make our roads a safer place to be. The book is available from The Stationery Office (TSO), most bookshops and is also available to view online. Ordering details may be found in the Useful References section.

Over 1 million copies of the Highway Code are sold every year, making it one of the major non-fiction bestsellers.