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Title: Is the Highway Code legally binding?

Date: 29 May 2014

MCN Law – Is the Highway Code set in stone legally?

Question

I have a claim ongoing for my injuries and damaged bike and clothing. The car driver’s insurer has alleged I breached the highway code so is denying fault for the accident. I thought the highway code was guidance not legally binding – what is the position please.

Ross Hartley

Answer

The answer is not as straightforward as you or the third party insurer is suggesting.

Motorcyclists, as road users, are subject to the provisions of the Highway Code in the normal way. The failure of a road user to observe the Code does not necessarily mean that they have been negligent. Likewise, the fact that a road user has observed the Code does not mean that they cannot have been negligent. A party may however rely on a failure to observe the Code as "tending to establish or to negative any liability" (s.38(7) of the Road Traffic Act 1988).

I don’t know which rule you have been accused of breaking but rules 83 - 88 are specific to motorcycle claims. Others also apply more generally. Some relevant rules are:

a. One must wear regulation compliant helmets;
b. One must position themselves where drivers can see them in their mirrors;
c. One must take care and keep their speed low when filtering in slow-moving traffic;
d. Speed limits are absolute maximums and do not mean that it is safe to drive at those speeds. Drivers should reduce their speed when sharing the road with motorcyclists;
e. Drivers should be aware that motorcycles have greater stopping distances;
f. consideration may need to be given to lines and lane markings some of which MUST NOT be crossed or straddled unless safe to do so and others which must not be crossed or straddled unless in an emergency
g. In slow moving traffic drivers should be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who may be passing on either side;
h. road users should take extra care to look out for motorcyclists at road junctions, when turning right, at crossroads, and when turning left and at roundabouts.

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