Government refuses to change Highway Code despite calls from thousands of riders

  • The government has said it has “no plans” to make the requested changes to the Highway Code in its second response to a road safety petition.

    The petition, launched by Pass Wide and Slow founder Debbie Smith, asked the government to make rules 163 and 215 of the Highway Code law. This would mean drivers must only overtake when safe to do so, pass horses wide and slow, at a maximum of 15mph, and abide by riders’ requests to slow down or stop.

    **Click here to sign the petition**

    The government responded for the first time on 20 March, stating the government was carrying out a review of the guidance in the Highway Code and a consultation on proposed changes is planned for later this year.

    The petitions committee, which is made up of MPs to consider petitions submitted, stepped in on 1 April and asked the government to provide a revised response after members felt the original response “did not directly address the request”.

    Yesterday (22 April) the government responded for a second time and said it has “no plans” to make rules 163 and 215 law.

    “The Highway Code already has sufficient rules in place that means drivers can be prosecuted if they put horse riders in danger,” it read.

    “All road users are required to comply with road traffic law, in the interests of their own safety and that of other road users. If road users do not adopt a responsible attitude or if their use of the highway creates an unsafe environment, or causes nuisance, they may be committing a number of offences that can make them liable for prosecution.”

    The government added although the Highway Code does not itself create additional legal rights and obligations, it can be used as evidence when penalising drivers for road traffic offences.

    “Failure to observe the Highway Code’s provisions may invoke penalties that can range from being fined, given penalty points on the licence, or being disqualified from driving. For more serious cases of disobeying these rules, offending drivers may be liable to criminal proceedings; in the most serious cases, they may be sent to prison.

    “Enforcement of the law is a matter for the police who will decide on the evidence of each individual case, whether an offence has been committed and the appropriate action to take.”

    Debbie Smith told H&H the response was “disappointing”.

    “We all know the advice given in the Highway Code isn’t working,” she said.

    “I believe in the petition and I still believe something can change – but we have to get it debated in parliament for that to happen.”

    Debbie urged others to keep signing and sharing the petition, as if it reaches 100,000 signatures, the government will consider it for debate.

    “It does get me down when someone says they don’t agree with what we have asked for, but the whole idea is to get it debated and then different changes can be discussed,” she said.

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    “We want riders to wear cameras when they’re out and report incidents to the police – if it’s not reported then they don’t know it’s happening.”

    Debbie added the Pass Wide and Slow awareness rides that had been scheduled for 10 May, but had to be postponed owing to the coronavirus, will now take place on 6 September.

    “The plan is to keep going and to keep raising awareness,” she said.

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