HGV drivers will bear the greatest responsibility for collisions and accidents that occur on the country’s network from Saturday (29 January), after the government created a “hierarchy of road users”.

The shake-up of The Highway Code follows a consultation in which 21,000 people submitted views about the proposed changes - with the majority supporting all of them, according to the department for transport.

The overhaul means quicker or heavier modes of travel will have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to others on the road.

The RHA has previously said it was “extremely concerned” at the "frightening" and "irresponsible" changes and that they would encourage unsafe manoeuvres by cyclists.

The changes also include: giving pedestrians and cyclists priority when turning in and out of junctions; allowing cyclists to ride in the centre of the road, or two abreast, for their own safety; and encouraging drivers to adopt the so-called ‘Dutch Reach’ when opening their vehicle’s door – using the opposite hand so they look over their shoulder first.

Roads Minister Baroness Vere said: “I’m proud to say we have some of the safest roads in the world, but I’m determined to make them safer still for everyone.

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“These updates to The Highway Code will do just that by bringing the rules into the 21st century, encouraging people to respect and consider the needs of those around them, and ensuring all road-users know the rules of the road.”

Transport lawyers also said there was already a distinction within sentencing for careless driving by those driving heavier vehicles and that the new structured hierarchy could create more structured sentencing guidelines.

However, the RAC said the changes should make the roads safer for vulnerable road users.

Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, added: “It’s vitally important that all road users – especially drivers – take the time to fully understand what’s new as some of the changes are a significant departure from what’s gone before.”