Ten Things to Know About the Hierarchy of Road Users

A hierarchy of road users aims to protect those most vulnerable in the event of a collision writes Geraldine Herbert

  1. Introduction of a Hierarchy of road users:
    • The hierarchy of road users is a new approach to road safety introduced in various countries and has been part of the UK’s Highway Code since 2022. This system aims to prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable road users.
  2. Top of the Hierarchy: Pedestrians:
    • Pedestrians are placed at the top of the hierarchy because they lack any form of protection and are therefore extremely vulnerable in the event of a collision. Ensuring their safety is a primary goal.
  3. Next in Line: Cyclists, Horse Riders, and Motorcyclists:
    • Following pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, and motorcyclists are next in the hierarchy. These groups are also at high risk due to their limited protection compared to car occupants.
  4. Car and Van Drivers:
    • Below cyclists and motorcyclists are car and van drivers. While they have more protection, they still need to exercise significant caution around more vulnerable road users.
  5. Base of the Hierarchy: Bus and Lorry Drivers:
    • At the base of the hierarchy are bus and lorry drivers. These vehicles can cause the most harm in a collision, so their drivers have the greatest responsibility to minimize risks to others.
  6. Purpose of the Hierarchy:
    • The hierarchy is designed to provide greater protection to vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists. It emphasizes that those who can cause the most harm have the greatest duty to reduce risks.
  7. Responsibilities of Different Road Users:
    • While all road users must behave responsibly, those operating larger and potentially more dangerous vehicles bear a higher duty of care. This includes lorries, buses, vans, cars, and motorcycles, who must be mindful of pedestrians, cyclists, and horse riders.
  8. Need for Protection:
    • Cyclists and pedestrians need more protection due to the rising number of serious injuries among cyclists. A recent RSA report revealed that an average of 239 cyclists suffered serious injuries annually between 2016 and 2021.
  9. Collision Factors:
    • The primary factor in collisions leading to serious cyclist injuries is the failure to yield by drivers. Multi-vehicle collisions, particularly involving cars, account for the majority of these injuries.
  10. Enhancing Road Safety:
  • Implementing a hierarchy of road users can significantly enhance road safety. Simple changes to road rules, prioritizing the safety of vulnerable users, can help reduce fatalities and serious injuries on the roads.

By understanding and respecting the hierarchy of road users, everyone can contribute to making the roads safer for all.

Author: Geraldine Herbert

Motoring Editor and Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. Geraldine is also a regular contributor to Good Housekeeping (UK), EuroNews and to RTÉ, Newstalk, TodayFM, BBC Radio and Vigin Media. You can follow Geraldine on Twitter at @GerHerbert1

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