The Highway Code

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The Highway Code is a guide book for road users in the United Kingdom, prepared by the Department for Transport and the Driving Standards Agency, and published by The Stationery Office. It is a publication of rules and guidelines designed to promote road safety. There are two versions of The Highway Code: the Great Britain version, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales; and the Northern Ireland version which applies to Northern Ireland only. The booklet was first published in 1931, and has become the official road user guide, having been updated continually to reflect current practices.[1] Its standing is so great that a number of rules in it have been reflected in modern traffic law, and failure to adhere to them can result in criminal prosecution.

Current version[edit]

The current recommended retail price of the booklet version, as of 2010, is £2.50.[2] Most copies are bought by learner drivers, who are expected to learn the manual for their driving test.

Regional variations and local language versions[edit]

The Great Britain version of The Highway Code is also published in Welsh. The Northern Ireland version of The Highway Code is published in both English and Irish. Both versions are based on the Great Britain version of The Highway Code and thus may describe features which are not necessarily present in Wales and Northern Ireland.[3]


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

The first edition was published on 14 April 1931, with a price of one penny, and contained only 18 pages of advice. As of 2004 over one million copies of the Code are sold each year.[4]

It was published in its entirety for the first time in 1934. During the preparation of the Code the Ministry of Transport consulted 'extensively' with the Pedestrians Association.[5]

The latest edition of The Highway Code was released in September 2007 and contained new advice such as the risk of smoking while driving and information for novice drivers.[6]

The Code[edit]

The Highway Code contains 307 numbered rules and nine annexes covering pedestrians, animals, cyclists, motorcyclists and drivers. As well as the rules and annexes, there is information on road signs, road markings, vehicle markings and road safety. The annexes contain information on vehicle maintenance, licence requirements, documentation, penalties and vehicle security.

Some of the rules in the Code are legal requirements. If these rules are disobeyed, a criminal offence is committed. Offenders may be fined, given penalty points on their licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases offenders may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST’ or ‘MUST NOT’. In addition, the rule includes an abbreviated reference to the legislation which creates the offence.

Although failure to comply with the other rules of the Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should’ or ‘should not’ or ‘do’ or ‘do not’.

The Road Traffic Act 1988 says:

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.[7]

The Highway Code applies to England, Scotland and Wales; regional specific signs such as driver location signs in England or bilingual signs in Scotland and Wales are not covered in the Code.

Formats of The Highway Code[edit]

The Highway Code is available in different formats. In any proceedings, whether civil or criminal, only the Department for Transport's current printed version of the Code should be relied upon.

The Highway Code is available:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Introduction". Highway Code. HMSO. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  2. ^ ASIN 0115528148
  3. ^ "The Official Highway Code for Northern Ireland" (PDF). Department of Environment. p. 4. Retrieved 2012-11-01. 
  4. ^ "History of the Highway Code". Driving Standards Agency. 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  5. ^ "The history of the Pedestrians Association". Living Streets. Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  6. ^ "Smoking drivers risk prosecution". BBC News. 28 September 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52), s.38(7)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 3 August 2006. 
  8. ^ "Official Highway Code for iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad". Driving Standards Agency. 2012. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]