Vulnerable road users should always come first

Everyone deserves to be safe on our roads.

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  • New rules

  • Changed priorities

  • Driver responsibility

  • Safer for everyone

Help protect vulnerable road users

Vehicles cause the most serious accidents on our roads. And it’s the responsibility of every driver to help protect other road users. In fact, the law has now changed to make vulnerable road users a priority.

The Highway Code

What you need to know about the Highway Code

  • The law now gives other road users priority when crossing at junctions
  • Changes also give more protection for cyclists, horse riders and motorcyclists
  • Vulnerable road users include pedestrians and children
  • Disabled and elderly people are also at risk
  • Inexperienced drivers can be in more danger on the road too

Important new rules in the Highway Code

  • The new hierarchy does not remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly. We all play a part in keeping our roads safe for all
  • Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
  • Drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians crossing a road

In more detail

  • Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
  • Drivers need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
    • 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
    • 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
    • 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
  • Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side for their own safety
  • In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby

Pedestrians and children

People don’t always cross roads at a safe place. And other factors can make them step off the pavement unexpectedly – particularly in built up areas. Here are a few things to bear in mind.

  • You’re seven times more likely to kill someone if you hit them at 30mph, rather than 20mph
  • At junctions, people can easily walk in front of a vehicle as it waits for a gap in the traffic
  • Children are easily distracted and can run out into the road at any time
  • Be more aware of children near schools and play parks
  • Always follow signals from School Crossing Patrollers
  • Make sure you stop at pedestrian crossings
  • Remember, poor weather can make it harder for pedestrians to see properly
  • Never wave for someone to cross, as another vehicle could come past


People are cycling on our roads more and more. Cyclists are vulnerable road users in a number of different ways. They can:

  • Often be hard to see
  • Sometimes ride further out from the kerb to avoid drains and potholes
  • Be blown off course by gusts of wind
  • Need plenty of room – at least 1.5 metres
  • Be slower pulling away at junctions

Cyclists at roundabouts

Even though they’re going all the way around to the right, some cyclists stay in the left hand lane to feel safer. Watch out for shoulder checks and hand signals showing where they plan to go.

Elderly and disabled people

They can be especially vulnerable on our roads. There are a few things worth remembering, which can help make everyone as safe as possible.

Elderly people

  • Poorer mobility can make it harder to cross the road
  • Potentially difficult to spot, especially if wearing dark clothing
  • Poor weather can restrict mobility and visibility

Disabled people

  • Mobility scooters travel slowly on the road
  • Blind people usually have a guide dog, or use a white stick
  • Blind or partially sighted people can move more slowly
  • A white stick with red reflective bands means someone’s deaf and blind

Other types of road users

Mobility scooters

Horse riders and livestock

If you come across animals on the road, it’s good to remember that they can become agitated. You should always be guided by any signals given to you by the horse rider or farm worker. Some other advice to keep in mind.

  • Horse riders may be single or in groups
  • It’s up to you, as a driver, to slow down or stop if need be
  • Give plenty of room when passing horses
  • Pass slowly and be ready to stop
  • In rural areas, watch out for farm workers standing in the road guiding animals


Of all the vulnerable road users, motorcyclists are more likely to end up with serious injuries. Here are some factors worth thinking about. Motorcyclists can:

  • Be hard to spot – so always look out for them when leaving a junction
  • Be travelling quicker than you think
  • Move around behind you as they avoid potholes and drain covers
  • Easily be affected by sidewinds and fuel spillages

Inexperienced drivers and riders

A lack of experience can cause people to make poor decisions. This often puts them in a situation where they’re more vulnerable. Here are a few things to note. Newly qualified drivers:

  • Can drive too fast for their skill level
  • Think their vehicle control is better than it is
  • Can be easily swayed by friends
  • Don’t have as good anticipation or awareness
  • Might suddenly change direction
  • Can often be slower moving off
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