When first learning to drive, along with your driving instructor’s help, The Highway Code is your go-to, teaching you everything you need to know about driving and road safety.
The Highway Code actually acts as a rulebook for drivers, yet surprisingly, it is not a legalised document. Drivers can however be prosecuted for violating traffic rules in relation to The Highway Code, or disqualified from driving for disobeying them. For instance, exceeding the national speed limit and using your phone while driving is illegal and, if caught, can cost you a driving fee and even your licence.
Road markings are there for a reason – for drivers to obey and drive safely, while also respecting other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. However, many motorists are unsure of the legitimacy of the Highway Code in relation to the law.
One regulation featured in The Highway Code, which is legally supported, is rule 175 for junctions controlled by traffic lights: “You MUST stop behind the white ‘Stop’ line across your side of the road unless the light is green.”
Without road markings, drivers would face serious collisions because traffic wouldn’t be instructed to stop, change lanes for different directions or stop at pedestrian crossings.
Tim Shallcross, Head of Technical Policy at IAM RoadSmart, said: “If the Highway Code says ‘You MUST’ or ‘MUST NOT’ do something, you’re breaking a law if you disobey, and the law in question will be quoted at the end of that paragraph.
“If it says you ‘should’, or just gives advice there is no specific law you break if you disregard it.
“However, if you disregard the advice and as a result have a crash, or the police judge that you are driving in a manner which might be a threat to other road users, you can still be prosecuted, typically for careless driving.”