First published in 1931, at a cost of one penny, the Highway Code has now been issued as a smart phone app for £3.99 (available on iTunes). Originally a ‘code of directions for the guidance of road users’ and updated many time since, the Highway Code is still the best road safety tool we have in the box. The code was issued in response to the number of casualties resulting from road traffic accidents. In 1931 there were just over a million cars on the road but at over 7,000 the number of deaths on our roads was shocking.
In the 1930s pedestrians were considered to be little more than thoughtless obstructions in the road and for this reason the new Highway Code was addressed to them as well as to motorists. The situation is effectively described in Joe Moran’s ‘Crossing the road in Britain’,1931–1976
Moran says, ‘(Pedestrians) were told not to ‘make a sudden dash into the carriageway’ and to avoid standing about in groups at blind corners where they might obscure a driver’s line of vision. The code thus established the important principle that pedestrians as well as drivers were responsible for road safety, and that all persons had ‘a right to use the highway and an obligation to respect the rights of others’.
This echoes the strong message the Highway Code still sends today: everyone – pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, car drivers, lorry drivers, and donkey carts, has the right to use the highway. But to preserve our safety record everyone needs to play by the rules. And that means learning them first. Buy the app now or go online and download the Highway Code for free. direct.gov.uk/highwaycode.