The Highway Code

The Highway Code is a set of information, advice, guides and mandatory rules for road users in the United Kingdom. Its objective is to promote road safety. The Highway Code applies to all road users including pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists, as well as motorcyclists and drivers. It gives information on road signs, road markings, vehicle markings, and road safety. There are annexes on vehicle maintenance, licence requirements, documentation, penalties, and vehicle security.

The Highway Code was first published in 1931, and has been regularly updated to reflect current practices.[1] It is prepared by the Department for Transport and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, and is published by The Stationery Office in electronic form and as a printed book.

The Great Britain version, available in English and Welsh, applies to England, Scotland and Wales, but regional specific signs such as driver location signs in England or bilingual signs in Scotland and Wales are not covered. The Northern Ireland version, available in English and Irish, applies to Northern Ireland.

The Highway Code, front cover, 2018
The Highway Code, cover


The Highway Code 1931.djvu
The Highway Code, first edition 1931.
(Djvu file: click on the image to browse though the pages)

The origins of the code can be traced back to 1920 when the Departmental Committee on the Regulation of Motor Vehicles announced that "a compulsory and uniform code of signals for all road vehicles is to be brought into operation".[2] Drivers in London had evolved a system for signalling their intentions to turn right or stop, using their arm, and this was seen to be of such benefit that it should be required and standardised as a code of behaviour across the country. The code allowed the driver to use either his own arm or a dummy arm - which had obvious benefits in wet weather for drivers with the luxury of an enclosed cab, or for drivers using left-hand-drive vehicles, as in imported American cars. The intention to bring in the compulsory code was delayed and in successive years the code was expanded including whip signals for horse drawn vehicles, and signals made by policemen controlling junctions.

In 1923 a booklet costing one penny was published by His Majesty's Stationery Office and approved by the Home Office (and Scottish Office). Entitled Traffic Signals to be used by the Police and Drivers of Vehicles, this booklet arose from discussions between the Police and The Automobile Association.[3] In subsequent years, in addition to being promoted by the automobile associations, the code was publicised using posters by the National Safety First Association (which still continues this work having been renamed the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents in 1936).

The introduction of The Highway Code was one of the provisions of the wide-reaching Road Traffic Act 1930. Costing one penny, the first edition of the code was published on 14 April 1931. It contained just 18 pages of advice, including the arm signals to be given by drivers and police officers controlling traffic. The second edition, considerably expanded, appeared in 1934, and now illustrated road signs for the first time. During its preparation the Ministry of Transport consulted with the Pedestrians Association.[4]

Further major revisions followed after the Second World War so that, for example, references to trams were still included in the 1954 version but disappeared after that (tramway rules returned to the Code in 1994, after the first modern tram systems in Britain had opened). Motorway driving was included in the fifth edition. The sixth edition, in 1968, used photographs as well as drawings for the first time, and also updated the illustrations of road signs to take the new 'continental' designs into account. The 70-page 1978 edition introduced the Green Cross Code for pedestrians and orange badges for unskilled drivers. The format was changed to a 'taller' size in the 1990s. An electronic Highway Code app followed in 2012.

Legal aspects

Certain rules in The Highway Code are legal requirements, and are identified by the words ‘must’ or ‘must not’. In these cases, the rules also include references to the corresponding legislation. Offenders may be cautioned, given licence penalty points, fined, banned from driving, or imprisoned, depending on the severity of the offence. Although failure to comply with the other rules would not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, the Highway Code may be used in court under the Road Traffic Act to establish liability. These include advisory rules with wording ‘should’ and ‘should not’ or ‘do’ and ‘do not’. In general, only the latest official printed version of the Highway Code should be used but in legal proceedings, whether civil or criminal, the version current at the time of the incident would apply.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 states:

A failure on the part of a person to observe a provision of The Highway Code shall not of itself render that person liable to criminal proceedings of any kind but any such failure may in any proceedings (whether civil or criminal, and including proceedings for an offence under the Traffic Acts, the [1981 c. 14.] Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 or sections 18 to 23 of the [1985 c. 67.] Transport Act 1985) be relied upon by any party to the proceedings as tending to establish or negative any liability which is in question in those proceedings.[5]


The Highway Code is available in the following forms:

See also


  1. ^ "Introduction". Highway Code. HMSO. Retrieved 18 November 2007.
  2. ^ Code of Signals for Road Vehicles, Dundee Evening Telegraph, 5th Oct 1920, p2
  3. ^ Traffic Signals to be used by the Police and Drivers of Vehicles, Banbury Advertiser, 26 July 1923, p6
  4. ^ "The history of the Pedestrians Association". Living Streets. Archived from the original on 7 August 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. ^ "Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52), s.38(7)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 3 August 2006.
  6. ^ "Official Highway Code for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad". Driving Standards Agency. 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.

Further reading

External links

Climbing lane

Climbing lanes or crawler lanes are a roadway lane design. They allow slower travel for large vehicles, such as large trucks or semi-trailer trucks, ascending a steep grade. Since climbing uphill is difficult for these vehicles, they can travel in the climbing lane without slowing traffic.

Commission v Italy (2009)

Commission v Italy (2009) C-110/05 is an EU law case, concerning the free movement of goods in the European Union.

Driver's manual

A driver's manual is a book created by the DMV of a corresponding state in order to give information to people about the state's driving laws. This can include information such as how to get a license, license renewal, road laws, driving restrictions, etc. "In the U.S. there is no central organization that is responsible for the creation of Driver's Manuals." (Idaho Driver's Manual). As a result there is no set of rules for the states to create the manuals, so all driver's manuals vary by state. However, every state does still follow general guidelines when creating the manuals.

The beginning of every manual starts with how to get a driver's license. It informs us about what types of identification is needed, and who is eligible to apply for a license. In most states, you "must provide documentary proof of their full legal name, age, Social Security number, citizenship, or legal presence and address." (Ohio Driver's Manual). In all states there is a minimum age requirement for getting a driver's permit, which later leads into receiving a full driver's license. This age limit varies by state. "The person must also be in good general health, and can have good vision with or without glasses or contacts."(New Jersey Driver's Manual). There is also usually a payment fee in order to receive your license. Along with getting a license, all states also offer voter registration and becoming an organ donor when applying for your license. Every state requires taking a written test to receive your driver's permit. Every state also requires a driver's test that you must past in order to get your license. However, only a few of the states' manuals actually go into detail about what exactly they will test you on for the driving test. All manuals proceed to talk about the specifics of how to drive and the rules of the road.

Every manual includes a section that goes into detail about car and driver safety. All states require vehicle inspection, but only some require annual inspection. Driving while intoxicated is illegal in the United States. Almost all states have a "minimum blood alcohol level while driving of .08%" (Kentucky Driver's Manual). For seat belts, 49 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws requiring seat belt use by at least all occupants of the front seat. New Hampshire is the only state with no such requirement for adults. However, in all states anyone under the age of 18 is required to wear a seat belt. Vehicles must always make way for emergency vehicles.

Dual carriageway

A dual carriageway (British English) or divided highway (American English) is a class of highway with carriageways for traffic travelling in opposite directions separated by a central reservation. Roads with two or more carriageways which are designed to higher standards with controlled access are generally classed as motorways, freeways, etc., rather than dual carriageways.

A road without a central reservation is a single carriageway regardless of the number of lanes. Dual carriageways have improved road traffic safety over single carriageways and typically have higher speed limits as a result. In some places, express lanes and local/collector lanes are used within a local-express-lane system to provide more capacity and to smooth traffic flows for longer-distance travel.

LUTZ Pathfinder

The two-seater prototype pod has been built by Coventry-based RDM Group, and was first shown to the public in February 2015.

The LUTZ (Low-carbon Urban Transport Zone) Pathfinder pod is part of the UK Government's Transport Systems Catapult Autodrive project, a GB£20 million project.Three pods were tested initially in Milton Keynes during 2015 to ensure that they can comply with the Highway Code. A further trial, with a four seat vehicle developed from the LUTZ, commenced along a guided busway near Cambridge for possible use in an after hours service.


Overtaking or passing is the act of one vehicle going past another slower moving vehicle, travelling in the same direction, on a road. The lane used for overtaking another vehicle is almost always a passing lane further from the road shoulder which is to the left in places that drive on the right and to the right in places that drive on the left.

Ricky's Hand

"Ricky's Hand" is a song by Fad Gadget, released as a single in 1980. It was the second Fad Gadget single, following "Back to Nature" the previous year. The track was not included on any studio album, predating a debut LP by several months, but does appear on several compilations. Mute Records founder Daniel Miller collaborated on the writing, playing and production.

Lyrically the song was a sardonic cautionary tale on the perils of drink driving: "From the pocket it pulled five pound / Ricky bought another round… Ricky contravened the highway code / The hand lies severed at the side of the road". The cover of the original vinyl single showed the hand in question being burnt by drops of beer in the fashion of a corrosive warning symbol.

The music was in a predominantly industrial style with an insistent electronic beat. A plaintive motif opened the track and recurred during the chorus, occasionally augmented by a distinctive 'choir girl effect', as it was described in the credits. An electric drill was also listed among the instruments; it can heard on the recording punctuating each mention of the song's title.

The B-side, "Handshake", was an instrumental that essentially mixed up the sounds used on the A-side. The blackly comical double meaning of its title was made evident by a cartoon strip on the single's rear sleeve depicting a blender being filled with milk, a man inserting his hand into the blender, and the device being switched on – with bloody results.

The single did not make the UK charts when released but was featured on some contemporary compilations such as Machines (1980). "Ricky's Hand" also appears on the CD compilations The Fad Gadget Singles (1992) and The Best of Fad Gadget (2001). Fad Gadget sang it on the Belgian RTBF show Cargo De Nuit in 1980 with his two live musicians at the time, Phil Wauquaire and Jean-Marc Lederman.

Road Users' Code

Road Users' Code is a road user guide in Hong Kong. It is published by the Transport Department.

There is not a single law governing the rules of the road like other jurisdictions. Licensing and road maintenance are under the purview of the Transport Department and the Highways Department respectively.

There are several motoring laws in Hong Kong:

Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Ordinance - governs third party insurance for drivers

Road Traffic (Driving-Offence Points) Ordinance - sets up a point system for breach of rules of the road

Road Traffic Ordinance - regulates road traffic and use of vehicles

Road signs in Singapore

Road signs in Singapore closely follow those laid down in the traffic sign regulations used in the United Kingdom, although a number of changes over the years have introduced some slight deviations that suit local road conditions (such as fonts). Road signs in Singapore conform to the local Highway Code under the authority of the Singapore Traffic Police.

The Highway Code of Singapore Traffic Police is tested during the Basic Theory Test and Final Theory Test at either Ubi, Bukit Batok or Woodlands driving schools. The students are then to find either a school or private driving instructor to learn driving itself. Singaporean road signs depict people with realistic (as opposed to stylised) silhouettes.

No official name is given to the typeface used on all official signs, which resembles closely to Enamela Condensed Medium nor DIN 1451.

Since the mid-1990s, signs have been placed on a backing board making them square or rectangular and standardised to a width of 600 mm on most roads and 900 mm on expressways. Prior to the 1990s, signs were cut out to their shape (eg: round signs were cut to be circular) as in most countries around the world.

Singapore traffic signs use the English Language, one of the four official languages and the main language in the country. The three others – Malay, Chinese, and Tamil, and also Japanese, – are also used for important public places such as tourist attractions, airports and immigration checkpoints.

Roads in Northern Ireland

The main roads in Northern Ireland, which connect well with those in the south, are signed "M"/"A"/"B" as in Great Britain. Whereas the roads in Great Britain are numbered according to a zonal system, there is no available explanation for the allocation of road numbers in Northern Ireland, though their numbering is separate from the system in England, Scotland and Wales.

In Northern Ireland, Transport NI is responsible for all 5,592 miles (8,999 km) of roads. Road users also have the Highway Code for Northern Ireland, which provide guidance on the legal aspects of driving on Northern Ireland's roads.

Roads in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a network of roads, of varied quality and capacity, totalling about 262,300 miles (422,100 km). Road distances are shown in miles or yards and UK speed limits are indicated in miles per hour (mph) or by the use of the national speed limit (NSL) symbol. Some vehicle categories have various lower maximum limits enforced by speed limiters. Enforcement of UK road speed limits increasingly uses speed guns, automated in-vehicle systems and automated roadside traffic cameras. A unified numbering system is in place for Great Britain, whilst in Northern Ireland, there is no available explanation for the allocation of road numbers.The earliest specifically engineered roads were built during the British Iron Age. The road network was expanded during the Roman occupation. Some of these survive and others were lost. New roads were added in the Middle Ages and from the 17th century onwards. Whilst control has been transferred from local to central bodies and back again, current management and development of the road network is shared between local authorities, the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and Highways England. Certain aspects of the legal framework remain under the competence of the United Kingdom parliament.

Although some roads have much older origins, the network was subject to major development from the 1950s to the mid-1990s. From then, construction of roads has become increasingly controversial with direct action campaigns by environmentalists in opposition.

In the UK, Road safety policy is part of transport policy. A "Transport 2010; The 10 Year Plan" states that the basic principle is that "people travel safely and feel secure whether they are on foot or bicycle, in a car, on a train, or bus, at sea or on a


Rules of the Road (Ireland)

The Rules of the Road is the official road user guide for Ireland.

Take the Test

Take the Test is an educational game in the format of a board game in which progress is determined by a player's knowledge of The Highway Code.

The game was published in 1967 by British toy and game manufacturer Peter Pan Playthings Ltd, produced in collaboration with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Ten Commandments for Drivers

On June 19, 2007, the Vatican, under the direction of Pope Benedict XVI and Cardinal Renato Martino, issued a 36-page document entitled Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road, created by the curial Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People, under the leadership of Renato Raffaele Cardinal Martino, and intended for bishop conferences around the world. The document specifically states that it is aimed at bishops, priests, religious and other pastoral workers in hopes of pastoral caregivers paying greater attention to expressions of human mobility. The document derived some of its material from the Old Testament, the New Testament, the American Automobile Association, and statements by Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II.On its issue this document received a lot of media attention due to its listing of Ten Commandments for Drivers. In essence, the Vatican is pointing out that the act of driving has a moral and ethical component. The Guidelines make note of both the benefits of the use of automobiles as well as its dangerous and negative consequences. The problem is not as pervasive in the Vatican City itself, which has a speed limit of 30 km/h (18-19 mph) and approximately only 1000 cars; but there were over 35 million deaths resulting from car accidents in the 20th century, and the Vatican is responding. In the same section of the document as the Drivers' Ten Commandments are the so-called Christian virtues of drivers, which include prudence, justice and hope.

The Guidelines not only deal with problems on the road, but also address prostitution, caring for street children and the homeless, found in Parts Two, Three and Four of the Guidelines.The Guidelines state that driving can bring out primitive behavior in drivers, which leads to road rage, rude gestures, speeding, drinking behind the wheel, cursing, blasphemy, impoliteness, and intentional violation of the highway code. The Guidelines encourage drivers to obey the highway code, pray behind the wheel and recite the rosary, which the Guidelines insist would not distract the driver's attention.

The Highway Code (Malta)

The Highway Code is the official road user guide for Malta.

Toucan crossing

A toucan crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing that also allows bicycles to be ridden across. Since two-can, both pedestrians and cyclists, cross together, the name "toucan" was chosen.

In the United Kingdom, toucan crossings are normally 4 metres (13 feet) wide, instead of the 2.8 metre (9 feet) width of a pelican crossing or puffin crossing. There are two types of toucan crossing: on more recently installed ones, a "green bicycle" is displayed next to the "green man" when cyclists and pedestrians are permitted to cross. A red bicycle and red man are shown at other times; older ones do not have a red bicycle – bicycles are permitted to cross at any time (if it is safe to do so).Unlike the pelican crossing, before the lights for vehicles go back to green, a steady red and amber are displayed instead of a flashing amber. The pedestrian/cyclist signal lights may be on the near side of the crossing (like a puffin crossing), or on the opposite side of the road (like a pelican crossing).

A related crossing type is the pegasus crossing for horse riders.

The toucan crossing often comes up as a multiple choice question on the DVSA car or motorcycle theory test. It is easily remembered by attributing the 'toucan' with 'two can' cross - pedestrians and cyclists.

Traffic stop

A traffic stop, commonly called being pulled over, is a temporary detention of a driver of a vehicle by police to investigate a possible crime or minor violation of law.

Traffic violations reciprocity

Under traffic violations reciprocity agreements, non-resident drivers are treated like residents when they are stopped for a traffic offense that occurs in another jurisdiction. They also ensure that punishments such as penalty points on one's license and the ensuing increase in insurance premiums follow the driver home. The general principle of such interstate, interprovincial, and/or international compacts is to guarantee the rule "one license, one record."

Zebra crossing

A zebra crossing is a type of pedestrian crossing used in many places around the world. Its distinguishing feature is alternating dark and light stripes on the road surface, resembling the coat of a zebra. A zebra crossing typically gives priority to pedestrians.

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