The Driving Test as a Highway Code Exercise

Another view of the driving test is as an application of The Highway Code. First off, what exactly is The Highway Code. We might answer  by saying it’s a set of common rules so we understand how to interact with others. 


We always have had laws for this. Driver licences have been around since The Motor Car Act 1903 introduced them. Driving tests came with the The Motor Car 1934 Act. If you look at your Highway Code you will see countless legal references. 


So The Highway Code allows us to know the law of the land in a simple and easily understood way. Break a law on a driving test and you are marked as having committed a serious fault. For example speeding. Or if for example you failed your eyesight test at the start or drove onto a motorway during the test, it will be terminated. 


Have a look at Appendix 4 of your Highway Code and have a count of the number of Acts listed. I made it 47! But if your pupil can not distinguish between “take the next left and at the end of the road left” we clearly need something like The Highway Code to summarise the important points.


Next thing in the code is advice. The code is full of it. For example on a country road (Rule 154) we are given the advice “always be able to stop in the distance that you can see is clear in front of you”. Now unlike a lot of other bits in the code this is not law. But it is very good advice. Anyone that goes into a bend breaking this rule deserves to be failed.


This gives rise to the bit where they say, while “it is not law but it can be used in a court of law”. There is another part just before Rule 102 that says that  “The rules in The Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident”.


What all this law and advice does is besides regulating what we do it allows for the mistakes of others. If we drive in a disciplined and predictable way, this is for our benefit and that of the other road users. 


Notice that there is a double lock on a lot of things:

  • Give enough room for a car door to open (Rule 152)
  • Look over your shoulder when opening your car door (Rule 239)

So it cautions us to be safe and allows for the mistakes of others. It does not take too long to find other examples.  


Something to bear in mind is that The Highway Code, just like the driving test is always evolving. It was born in 1935 and was a mere 107 rules long. Over a period of time it has grown to 307 rules. Just like children it keeps getting bigger. 


What can we take away from this point of view:

  • As our young pupils get older they are given more freedom which comes with more responsibilities
  • The code is a way in which we show respect for others
  • The Highway Code is a living thing that will be always changing as society changes
  • It’s worth re-reading it