Motoring 'bible' reflects changing face of Britain: Christian Wolmar finds the revised 'Highway Code' is as much a social document as a record of changed conditions on the roads since 1978

THE NEW version of The Highway Code launched yesterday, the only book that sells more than 'The Book', will provide future historians with countless titbits of about how life has changed since the last full revision in 1978.

For example, they will learn how advice on vehicle security has clearly not been heeded. The old version says 'over 1.5 million cars are broken into or stolen each year. That's one every 20 seconds.' It is now 2.5 million and every 13 seconds.

Two million copies are sold each year, mainly to driving-test candidates who, if they pass, probably never read it again. At 99p, the price has not kept up with inflation since the last price rise to 75p in 1987.

One possible source of confusion for the social historians will be the re-emergence of trams and the new prominence given to horse riders on the roads. There is a new section on tramways, which have reappeared in Manchester and will run next year in Sheffield. Motorists are warned that they 'must not enter a road or lane reserved for trams', and that it is not a good idea to park on tramlines.

Nine paragraphs of advice - up from one - are devoted to horse riders, a result of heavy pressure from the horse lobby: 'Make sure all tack fits well and is in good condition . . . You should also wear boots or shoes with hard soles and heels . . . When riding keep both feet in the stirrups.'

Drivers are faced with the new hazards of 20 mph speed limits and the proliferation of sleeping policemen. Cyclists in particular are told to take care of 'narrowings and other traffic calming features' but warned that they should ride over the hump rather than avoid it by going along 'a drainage channel at the edge of the road'.

The live policemen have changed, too. The fresh-faced young man instructing people to stop in the 1978 version has been replaced by a young black woman wearing a rather fetching fluorescent green plastic overcoat.

Car lamps, probably for some 'Euro' reason, are now car lights and all reference to hitch-hiking and thumbing a lift along the motorway have been expunged.

The cars have changed, too. The good old British Morris Minors and the Triumph 2000 have been replaced by a ubiquitous Euro-hatchback, which oddly does not have a number plate, probably because their drivers, in breach of the law, want to dodge the new photographic speed traps.

Another innovation is the puffin crossing. Unlike pelican crossings, there is no flashing orange phase - instead, the light stays red for the motorist until infra-red detectors find that there are no more pedestrians on the crossing.

There are only two in use so far and they are designed for roads near schools and old people's homes.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence