For the first time in eight years an updated version of the Highway Code has been released, with 133 pages to cover 29 new road rules and a plethora of safety tips.
A remarkable 50 per cent larger than its predecessor, the new code is packed with additions that are designed to encourage driver courtesy and co-operation.
Its recommendations include: "Never show off or try to compete with other drivers, particularly if they are driving badly." It also warns against allowing passengers to "distract you or encourage you to take risks".
The new manual, priced at £2.50, also contains an exhaustive list of government initiatives designed to improve road safety of which most drivers will be unaware. Launching the revised booklet yesterday, the Road Safety minister, Jim Fitzpatrick said: "The Official Highway Code is for life, not just for passing your driving test. It is a crucial tool for all road users – car drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians alike."
He stressed that a new section, the safety code for novice drivers, was essential to improving Britain's record on road safety.
Andrew Howard, head of road safety for the AA, welcoming the new-driver focus said: "Studies show some young drivers are show-offs, and are more likely to drive irresponsibly. Given that they're also the ones who read the Highway Code, it's a cherished opportunity to get a crucial message across to people that might not otherwise listen."
Not so impressed was Robin Cummins OBE, the British School of Motoring road safety consultant. Criticising the manual's patronising tone, he said: "The focus should be on making clear the consequences of careless driving. Instead, most of it is just a tidying up of rules that should have been enforced years ago."
* Most of the worst collisions happen at night. Between midnight and 6am is a time of high risk for new drivers. Avoid driving then unless it is really necessary.
* Make sure everyone in the car is wearing a seatbelt throughout the journey.
* Keep your speed down. Many serious collisions happen because the driver loses control, particularly on bends.
* Consider taking further approved training such as Pass Plus which teaches safer driving and can also cut the cost of insurance premiums.