Revised Highway Code unveiled
Smokers who light up behind the wheel can now be prosecuted. Having a cigarette whilst driving is now officially considered a distraction
A new Highway Code - the first revision for eight years - has been unveiled by the Government.
Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick described the new code as "a crucial tool for all road users" but the AA said it would be harder to decipher.
Increasing in size by about 50% and containing 29 more rules, it has a new safety code for novice drivers.
It tells those new to the road "If you are driving with passengers, you are responsible for their safety. Don't let them distract you or encourage you to take risks" and "Never show off or try to compete with other drivers, particularly if they are driving badly".
The code has also been updated to include new legislation that has been introduced on vehicle emissions and smoking in vehicles that are work places, as well as the provision of new stopping/directing powers to the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency and Highways Agency traffic officers.
Alongside this, it references new initiatives like quiet lanes, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, home zones and active traffic management schemes that people should be aware of, as well as increasing, re-writing or enhancing existing advice to promote greater co-operation between road users and further promote safety.
Mr 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 ... and applies to every stage of your life.
"Road safety is a responsibility we all share and everyone should have a copy of the code to keep their knowledge up to date.
"However, we know that the first few months after passing your driving test can be a risky time. This is reflected in the latest code which offers practical safety advice and reminders of the rules new drivers must abide by."
Andrew Howard, head of road safety for AA public affairs, said: "A major change is the code's inclusion of smoking at the wheel as behaviour that police may interpret as a distraction and failure to be in proper control of the vehicle. This addition will polarise drivers' opinions both for and against."