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New Highway code published

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

All road users need to know their Highway Code and not just learner drivers, Environment Minister Sammy Wilson insisted today


As he launched a new version of the code, the Minister stressed the booklet had vital lessons for all motorists, regardless of their level of experience. It should not simply be tossed aside and forgotten once people have passed their driving tests because knowledge of the latest rules of the road could be the difference between life and death.

Mr Wilson said: “I am pleased to be launching this new version of the Highway Code. Whatever our level of experience, the Code will provide good advice that is current, will make things clearer and will prepare us for the demands of today’s roads. It is a crucial guide for all road users at every time of life, whether they travel by car, motorcycle, bicycle, horse or on foot. The Highway Code is for life and it could save your life.”

The Minister said all motorists had a duty to ensure their knowledge of the code and their road skills were up to date. He said: “When did you last look at the Highway Code? For most people, I fear the answer would be when they passed the driving test and tore up their ‘L’ plates. The rules in the Code are there to help us use our roads safely and legally. Most collisions are caused by the decisions road users take. It is a sad fact that many, if not most, deaths and injuries on our roads could be prevented if everyone followed the advice in the Highway Code.”

Mr Wilson also confirmed that for the first time the code would be published later this summer in the languages of the largest minority groups in Northern Ireland – Polish, Lithuanian, Mandarin and Portuguese. He continued: “Northern Ireland has growing migrant communities which will include some people who might not be totally familiar with our local road traffic laws. I will be ensuring that, later in the summer, our largest migrant communities will be able to access the Highway Code online in their first language.”

In addition, the new Highway Code recognises the vulnerability of newly qualified drivers and includes a safety guide to support them through the first 12 months after passing their test.

The updated code also includes information on new legislation on vehicle emissions, smoking in vehicles considered to be workplaces, stopping/directing powers given to Driver and Vehicle Agency Enforcement Officers and a new section for users of powered wheelchairs and powered scooters. The Code also includes significant improvements to promote greater understanding between road users and further promote road safety.

Notes to Editors:

  1. Article 51 of the Road Traffic (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 requires the Department to have a Highway Code printed and provides that it may amend or add to the provisions of the Code.
  2. The new Code was drawn up following public consultation from July to October 2006.
  3. Following close liaison with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) in Great Britain, appropriate good suggestions made in NI and GB were accepted for inclusion in both Codes. As a result, the revised Northern Ireland Code remains consistent with and closely resembles the Great Britain version published in September 2007.
  4. The revised Highway Code has increased in size from 104 to 158 pages. It includes 29 new rules and many other inclusions have been increased, rewritten or enhanced to make things clearer for all road users on how they should act or react in a variety of situations.
  5. Copies will be available from the Stationery Office priced £2.50 and the document will be accessible online at link to external
  6. You will find below a number of questions and answers on the Highway Code that you might wish to use in any article associated with this release.
  7. For media enquiries, please contact DOE Press Office 028 9054 0003 or out-of-hours call EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.


Q1. If you are driving and a vehicle is trying to overtake you what should you do?

A1. Maintain a steady course and speed, slowing down if necessary to let the vehicle pass. You should, when the vehicle has completed the manoeuvre, drop back to maintain a two second gap.

Q2. What is the speed limit for a large goods vehicle on a dual carriageway?

A2. 50 mph.

Q3. What is the speed limit for a car towing a caravan on a single carriageway?

A3. 50mph.

A4. Where must you NOT fit a rear-facing baby seat?

Q4. Into any seat protected by an active frontal airbag.

Q5. Can a provisional licence holder carry a pillion passenger on a motorcycle?

A5. No.

Q6. What should you do if you drive up to a junction where the traffic lights have failed?

A6. When traffic lights are not working, treat the situation as you would an unmarked junction and proceed with great care.

Q7. What is the one reason allowed for flashing your headlights.

A7. To advise other road users that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users. Never assume that a flashing headlight is a signal for you to proceed.

Q8. What is the speed limit for cars and motorcycles on a single carriageway road outside a built-up area?

A8. 60mph

Q9. What is the minimum tread depth for car tyres

A9. At least 1.6mm.

Q10. When should you use your horn?

A10. You should use your horn only when your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence.

Q11. Are you only compelled to obey signals from police officers or are there other people whose signals you must obey?

A11. In Northern Ireland you must obey signals given by police officers and Driver and Vehicle Agency Enforcement Officers. You must also obey signs used by school crossing patrols.

Q12. What should a driver do when the amber light is flashing at a pelican crossing?

A12. When the amber light is flashing a driver must give way to any pedestrians on the crossing. If the amber light is flashing and there are no pedestrians on the crossing, you may proceed with caution.

Q13. What should a pedestrian do if the green figure is flashing at a pelican crossing?

A13. You should not begin to cross the road. If you have already started you should have time to finish crossing safely.