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Insight

New Highway Code includes 'hierarchy' of risk on the roads

Jack Sales
19/11/2021
The growing focus, not least from the Government, on 'clean' modes of transport to reduce pollution and unlock congestion continues to generate an increasing presence of micro-mobility (electric bicycles and e-scooters) as the means of getting from A to B.

Perhaps not coincidentally, recent amendments to the Highway Code include a 'hierarchy of road users', which basically places the responsibility of safety onto those who pose the greatest risk to other road users.

This means Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) now carry the greatest responsibility for other people's safety, all the way down to pedestrians who effectively have the least responsibility. Clearly, a pedestrian is far less likely to cause serious harm to another road user compared to a double decker bus or a refuse collection lorry.

The changes are an attempt to prioritise pedestrians and cyclists as part of the bid to encourage people to rely less on traditional vehicles and to improve road safety, which is as vital to discussions around modes of transport as environmental impact.

Electric vehicles will soon become the norm and e-bikes and e-scooters are already part of city life with multiple providers and docking stations littered across the city.

We've written before about the confusion around the legality of e-scooters and the risk to pedestrians. Although the operators participating in the Department of Transport trials provide some safety requirements, including registration, insurance and a 'three-strike rule' for misuse, the issue of course is that not all users, who tend to be younger and more inexperienced, follow the safety guidance or requirements, just as not all car drivers operate safely at all times.

Unsurprisingly, more road traffic collisions involving e-scooters involve serious life changing injuries and in some cases death, of pedestrians, cyclists and the e-scooter rider themselves.

Where someone is injured by a rental e-scooter operating under the trial scheme, insurance should be available via the operator to pursue a civil claim for compensation. Where an injury is caused by a privately owned e-scooter, there is unlikely to be any insurance in place, but there may be means to seek compensation from the Motor Insurers Bureau. Where an e-scooter rider is injured by another road user, a civil claim may be brought against the third party road user in the usual way.

Considering their popularity, it would be very surprising if the Government did not legalise wider use of e-scooters in the near future. Once e-scooters are legalised and successfully implemented into the transport system, we need clear and robust laws, safety guidance, rules and restrictions, which crucially, need to be enforced. Insurance companies will also need to offer policies specifically aimed at e-scooters on public roads.

With their ability to travel up to 65mph and their potential risk to other road users, e-scooters will also need to be incorporated into the 'hierarchy' of the Highway Code some way above pedestrians and pedal bikes.

Find out more about road traffic accident claims.

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