Sudden braking

The concern is that a car, turning in to a side road, may suddenly brake to allow a pedestrian to cross the side road, and this could result in a car from behind failing to stop and cause a collision ("rear ending").

This is obviously not good!

Yes, the car behind should allow enough space, and is in the wrong here, but even so, sudden braking is not good and should be a voided.

So why sudden braking?

The obvious reason for sudden braking is when the driver finds circumstances changing unexpectedly. If they can predict what is happening well enough then they can slow sensibly rather than suddenly brake.

Under the current Highway Code, if a driver turning in to a side road sees a pedestrian on the pavement about to cross, the driver has to make a guess. They have to guess if the pedestrian will wait, or cross. Given the rules for pedestrians expect the pedestrian to look for cars turning, and the "Green Cross Code", etc, the driver may make the reasonable assumption that the pedestrian will wait. The driver proceeds on that assumption, not slowing much, expecting to make a moving turn in to the side road. However, if the pedestrian starts to cross, the driver has to brake suddenly because at that point they are required to give way to the pedestrian (§170 Highway code). This is unexpected and so causes "sudden braking".

As I say, sudden braking is not good.

The solution?

Thankfully, as of Jan 29th 2022, the rules are changing. The new Highway Code rules say §170: "give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road into which or from which you are turning".

This is a change, in that you now give way to those "waiting to cross". So now, when turning, if you see a pedestrian waiting to cross you not longer have to guess if they will wait or cross. You have to give way to them, to wait for them.

This means you can cleanly signal, slow, and wait for the pedestrian. No unexpected changes in circumstances. No sudden braking. Safer for everyone.

So yes, the Highway Code changes finally address this "sudden braking" issue, at last.


  1. Surely this will result in more congestion on main roads, with cars having to stop on the main carriageway for pedestrians walking along the pavement? Imagine, a party of 30-40 school children walking alongside an urban dual cariageway with 3 or 4 side roads entering it.... CHAOS.. on the main carriageway as traffic has to stop and start.

    Unfortunately, I think this is an ill-conceived change.

    1. Sorry, but what you are describing ing this example (albeit rather contrived) is what would happen now under the existing rules. If there was some long stream of 30/40 people crossing a side road, cars turning have to wait. Once one person is crossing they have priority and cars have to wait, meaning the next person - seeing a car having to wait - will validly and safely start to cross. It is also exactly the same principle as turning right and having a continuous stream of cars coming the other way. It is also what happens if there is a continuous stream of people crossing a pedestrian crossing under current rules. What you are saying is the normal case of traffic priorities - it happens at junctions all the time - you have to wait for a gap in the traffic (cars or pedestrians). So that is not change.

  2. Your argument is still based on as assumption though. If a pedestrian is standing on the kerb of a side road they may not be "waiting to cross at all". They may be looking at something across the road that has caught their eye, they may be just taking a moment to daydream, they may be chatting to a friend across the road etc. You cannot assume their intentions based upon where they are standing.

    1. So same as a zebra crossing then.

      Also, you “give way”, if they don’t “take way” and start crossing, you carry on. Not rocket science is it?!

    2. How is that different to the approach a pedestrian has to take to a car approaching the junction?

      Literally all that has changed is that the car driver (who's got over a tonne of vehicle around them) is now legally responsible for giving way to the pedestrian in all circumstances, rather than there being some circumstances where the pedestrian is expected to notice that the car driver intends to turn and give way.

      Now, for deeply practical reasons (the abovementioned "over a tonne weight" of a car), pedestrians are still going to be cautious of cars - it's just that if you do hit one, you can no longer attempt to claim right of way because you were there first, instead it's always your fault.

      And if you're struggling to avoid hitting people who travel at under 10 MPH, maybe driving is no longer for you?

  3. Under current highway code rules, if the pedestrian has a foot on the road, prior to a driver *starting a maneouvre* then we have to give way. But a pedestrian has to obviously be committed to crossing a road, and do so *prior* to any car even considering the manouvre. Basically, the current code is if a pedestrian has a foot on the road, then you give way. Otherwise you don't.

    The big issue I have is that in London, where you have this particular species of cretin I call a 'Phombie' (ie Phone-Zombie that have a phone permanently blocking their view and walk into every obstacle) will dither at the threshold of pavement and road, without even the slightest care or awareness that they're holding up traffic. Cue a synchronised new anthem of car horns across London.

    The issue therefore I have is with the bit you highlighted 'or waiting to cross'. The code needs to be 'if a pedestrian is committed to crossing a road', then they have priority.

  4. Doesn't this create an inconsistency which could in theory make things more confusing?

    A pedestrian waiting to cross doesn't have priority on EVERY road, just a "side road into which [a motorist] is turning". So there must be a cut-off distance after which the "side road" becomes the "main road", cars are no longer turning but travelling straight, and pedestrians no longer have priority.

    Obviously if a pedestrian is waiting to cross a road 100 metres away from the turning, cars won't need to stop for them, but what if they are 6 metres, or 15 metres? Is everybody going to have their own slightly different idea of the cut-off distance beyond which priority flips from pedestrian to motorist? That seems like a recipe for more danger, not less.

    1. I pondered this too, particularly where there is fencing at the junction then a dropped curb for crossing slightly away from it. I concluded that it applies for as far as the car would be considered to be "turning in to" or "leaving" the side road. But I agree, it is not clear, is it :-)

  5. RoSPA driver here. This also introduces a situation where a pedestrian may be waiting to cross because they are aware of a hazard or potential hazard moving towards them from the end of the road that the driver on the main road cannot observe or reasonably anticipate. The driver slows down to give way and this puts pressure on the pedestrian, who is now conscious that they are "holding up the traffic". This may encourage the pedestrian to discard their assessment of the hazard in order to get across quickly. Seems well-intentioned but I think we're going to see an increase in accidents from it, coming from all road users – drivers, riders and pedestrians – trying to play a game of second-guessing each other's intentions and/or motives.

    1. OK, but surely this is not remotely new and exactly the same situation we have had at zebra crossings forever?


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