Rule H2 focuses on new priority at junctions – meaning motorists, horse riders and cyclists must give way to pedestrians waiting or crossing at a junction.
The final major change, Rule H3, sets out new guidance for drivers and motorcyclists, advising them to “not cut across cyclists going ahead when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane”.
Motorists should “stop and wait” for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary.
Jonathan White, Legal and Compliance Director at National Accident Helpline, urged drivers to familiarise themselves with the new changes.
He said: “While we welcome the Highway Code changes, we are concerned that there has been insufficient public education and as a result a lack of awareness, that could potentially lead to an increase in road accidents.
“Potential misunderstanding about the new priorities at road junctions is a recipe for disaster, particularly if drivers don’t get up to speed with the changes relating to junctions.
“Since 2018, we have helped 6,302 pedestrians and 3,853 cyclists to make a claim, after being injured in a road accident – totalling more than 2,500 claims a year.
“The new rules provide important guidance and will almost certainly be used by courts in deciding who is at fault for an accident or whether a criminal offence has been committed.
“It’s also important for all road users to be aware of the changes, if they are involved in a road or traffic accident, they could be eligible to make a claim under the new rules – particularly pedestrians and cyclists.
“In order to help keep road users safe, especially those classed as more vulnerable, we’d strongly recommend that the public familiarise themselves with the new laws, ahead of January 29, and be vigilant to those who are at a higher risk of being injured.”
In 2021, National Accident Helpline helped more than 1,000 pedestrians and 877 cyclists to make a claim after being hurt in a road accident.
Safe passing distances have also been updated to account for the increase in protections of the most vulnerable road users.
Drivers will now need to leave a minimum distance of 1.5 metres when overtaking motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn vehicles at speeds under 30mph.
When driving over the 30mph threshold, the safe overtaking distance is increased to a minimum of two metres.
For larger vehicles, like heavy goods vehicles, buses and motorhomes, a minimum distance of two metres should be left in all conditions.
If motorists are in more rural areas where there are no pavements, a gap of at least two metres should be left where a pedestrian is walking in the road.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport explained why the changes were being made.
They said: “The proposed upcoming changes to The Highway Code will improve safety for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, with those who present the most risk to other road users given the greatest responsibility in creating a safer travel environment for all.
“The Department has established a working group of key organisations to ensure that messages about the changes are as widespread as possible and our well-established THINK! campaign will continue to ensure all road users are aware both when these changes come into effect and beyond.”