Elderly drivers avoiding new driving law changes despite concerns

Highway Code: This Morning panel debate changes to code

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A new survey has found that only one in 10 UK drivers would have the correct knowledge to pass the theory test if they were to take it today. One in five drivers over the age of 55 admit they have not revisited the Highway Code since passing their test, a significant cause for concern for all road users.

Despite the almost annual updates, 52 percent of drivers have either never read the Highway Code, have not read it since they passed their test, or can’t remember it at all.

Age Co, the organisation that conducted the survey, said it was a “concerning result” considering 75 percent of people drive multiple times a week, or some even daily.

Some of the most commonly misunderstood rules included the Dutch Reach rule, towing and electric vehicles.

In January, one of the largest updates was introduced, with the Dutch Reach being one of the most contentious new additions.

It involves a driver or passenger using their opposite hand to open the door, forcing their body to turn towards the back of the car, allowing them to see if any oncoming traffic is there.

The survey found that drivers were unsure whether this could lead to drivers being fined for not using the method.

The Highway Code is advisory only and cannot lead to any fines, although people can be held responsible if they break other laws, including reckless or dangerous driving.

There was also confusion about whether it is mandatory to display a warning sign when charging an electric vehicle.

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Carolyn Hector, Director of Marketing, Brand and Product Development at Age Co, said: “We conducted this research to uncover drivers’ knowledge of the new Highway Code. 

“While many of us think we are perfectly safe and good drivers, not knowing the latest regulations puts us, and others, at risk. 

“It’s a real concern that many drivers could be making illegal driving decisions, completely unaware.”

A surprising finding was that 80 percent of respondents believe they need to leave a gap of just half a metre between their car and a cyclist when overtaking. 

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Historically, no guidance was provided other than to leave at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car.

However, the revised Highway Code actually requires drivers to leave at least three times this amount – around 1.5 metres or five feet.

Only 22 percent of drivers over the age of 50 have read the Highway Code since it was last revised in January 2022.

Five percent of these are between 55 and 64 years old, while eight percent are over the age of 75.

Men over the age of 50 were found to be more aware of the changes than women, although of those that could recall specific changes, women were more aware.

When it comes to areas with the best drivers based on knowledge of the current Highway Code, Bristol came out on top with 37.8 percent of drivers aware of the changes, compared to only 6.2 percent of drivers in Southampton. 

Glasgow and Norwich also made the top three, whereas Birmingham and Sheffield sat at the bottom of the list. 

The latest version of the Highway Code, which was introduced in January 2022, provides new guidance around cyclists and self-driving cars, to name a few changes. 

Since its release, less than 20 percent of respondents have read the Highway Code, with Age Co saying that it shows “the majority of us are way out of date on our knowledge”.

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