The Highway Code
The Highway Code is a set of mandatory rules, guides, advice, and information for all road users in the United Kingdom. Its objective is to promote road safety. The Highway Code applies to animals, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, and drivers. The 2004 version, for example, contained 307 numbered rules and 9 annexes. The Highway Code gives information on road signs, road markings, vehicle markings, and road safety. The annexes include information on vehicle maintenance, license requirements, documentation, penalties, and vehicle security.
Failure to comply with the mandatory rules is a criminal offence.
The highway code was first published in 1931 as a booklet and has been regularly updated to reflect current practices. It is prepared by the Department for Transport and the Driving Standards Agency, and is published by The Stationery Office in electronic form and as a printed book. Most copies are bought by learner drivers preparing for their driving test. In 2004, for example, over one million copies of the Highway Code were sold.
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.
Costing one penny, the first edition of the Highway Code was published on 14 April 1931. It contained just 18 pages of advice. The entire, much expanded, Highway Code was later published in 1934. During its preparation the Ministry of Transport consulted with the Pedestrians Association.
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 license 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 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.
The Highway Code is available in the following forms:
- book English or Welsh; and for Northern Ireland
- iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad app
- PDF files, including Russian and Polish translations
- CD-ROM, also mirrored online
- DVD, with British sign language
The Highway code can also be accessed at the following locations:
- Driver's manual, the United States equivalent of the Highway Code
- Road Users' Code, the Hong Kong equivalent of The Highway Code
- Malta's The Highway Code, the Maltese equivalent of the Highway Code
- Green Cross Code
- Road surface marking
- Road marking machine
- Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions
- Vienna Convention on Road Traffic
- Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals
- "Introduction". Highway Code. HMSO. Retrieved 2007-11-18.
- ASIN 0115528148
- "History of the Highway Code". Driving Standards Agency. 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
- "The history of the Pedestrians Association". Living Streets. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- "Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52), s.38(7)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 3 August 2006.
- "Official Highway Code for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad". Driving Standards Agency. 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012.
- Department for Transport, Driving Standards Agency (28 September 2007). The Official Highway Code 2007 Edition. The Stationery Office. ISBN 0-11-552814-8.
- The Highway Code (in English)
- The Highway Code for Northern Ireland (in English)
- The Highway Code for Northern Ireland (in Irish)