RAC warns of 'avalanche of wrongly-issued fines' for drivers from 1 June

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Motorists are being warned of an ‘avalanche of penalty charge notices being wrongly issued to drivers’ once councils are handed powers to enforce minor traffic offences – including stopping in yellow box junctions, making illegal turns and driving in cycle lanes – from June. 

All councils across England and Wales will be able to apply to take responsibility away from the police and issue fines themselves from May, in what transport ministers called a move to ‘help cut congestion, improve bus services and boost road safety’. 

The move will bring the whole country in line with London and Cardiff, with councils in these cities already enforcing these types of traffic violations. 

However, the RAC is concerned that poorly maintained yellow box junctions could be exploited by cash-strapped councils unfairly issuing PCNs to drivers. 

Power shift: Councils in England and Wales will likely begin issuing fines for minor traffic offences, such as unlawfully stopping in box junctions, from 1 June

Power shift: Councils in England and Wales will likely begin issuing fines for minor traffic offences, such as unlawfully stopping in box junctions, from 1 June

In January, Transport Minister Baroness Vere confirmed the handing over of enforcement powers for minor traffic violations to councils.

They will need to the Department for Transport in order to be granted enforcement duties, with the first fines likely issued by the most eager local authorities from 1 June.  

Currently, minor moving traffic violations committed outside the English and Welsh capital are enforced by the police.

However, offences often go unpunished as a result of there being fewer officers on our roads.

Types of minor traffic offences set to be enforced by councils from 1 June 2022

  • Illegal turns 
  • Driving in a no entry zone 
  • Stopping in a box junction 
  • Driving the wrong way on a one-way street 
  • Illegal U-turns Driving in cycle lanes 
  • Failing to give way to oncoming traffic 
Yellow box junctions like this one are designed to ease congestion levels on the busiest intersections in town and cities, with motorists only permitted to stop in one if turning right

Yellow box junctions like this one are designed to ease congestion levels on the busiest intersections in town and cities, with motorists only permitted to stop in one if turning right

The RAC is warning of an 'avalanche of penalty charge notices being wrongly issued to drivers' once cash-strapped councils take enforcement duties away from the police in their areas

The RAC is warning of an ‘avalanche of penalty charge notices being wrongly issued to drivers’ once cash-strapped councils take enforcement duties away from the police in their areas 

New enforcement powers means all councils will be able to use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras located near potential offence locations to catch drivers in the act, which is already the case in London and Cardiff. 

Fines of up to £70 can be applied for a variety of minor traffic offences, though councils will be forced to offer discounts for PCNs that are paid early – usually within 14 days of being issued. 

Authorities in London and Cardiff were pocketing over £58million a year for minor moving traffic offences - including driving into a no entry zone - before the pandemic

Authorities in London and Cardiff were pocketing over £58million a year for minor moving traffic offences – including driving into a no entry zone – before the pandemic

London and Cardiff raked in a combined £58.2million in fines a year from these types of offences before the pandemic hit, according to figures for the financial year 2018/19.

And more than half of the income generated was for fines issued to motorists who had unlawfully stopped in a box junction.  

They are designed to ease congestion levels on the busiest intersections in town and cities, with motorists only permitted to stop in a yellow box junction when turning right. 

The RAC warns yellow box junctions could soon turn into the cash cows they’ve become in London and Cardiff.  

Its recent poll of 2,597 drivers found 57 per cent are generally in favour of yellow box junctions being enforced to keep traffic flow moving, but also discovered that many of them have design flaws which cause drivers to become trapped through no fault of their own.

Motorists reported cases of some being so poorly maintained that it was hard to see where the yellow lines start and finish. 

Reports of box junction design flaws were also rife, with various motorists saying that they have been installed in completely the wrong places, are larger than they should be and were obstructed by buildings and street furniture.   

Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are currently used in London and Cardiff to enforce fines at junctions with no turn signals, such as this one in Holborn

Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras are currently used in London and Cardiff to enforce fines at junctions with no turn signals, such as this one in Holborn

Among the list of minor moving traffic offences councils will be able to enforce includes motorists incorrectly driving in cycle lanes

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said there is no definitive guidance on the design, maintenance and enforcement of box junctions, which opens the door for councils to take advantage.

‘There will be a high degree of confusion among drivers and local authorities which could lead to an avalanche of penalty charge notices being wrongly issued and then having to be appealed,’ Lyes said, 

‘This will inevitably lead to an unnecessarily high number of appeals for local authorities to review, as well as some poor outcomes for drivers.’

The RAC has written to the DfT asking them to update the guidance to make it clear to local authorities what the minimum standard for design and condition of a box junction should be before letting enforcement begin, but they are adamant the present guidance is sufficient.

‘We are worried that failing to update guidance to include the lessons learnt from more than 15 years of enforcement in London will lead to countless wrong fines being issued, no end of unnecessary stress for drivers who feel they have been unfairly treated and thousands of wasted council hours investigating appeals,’ he added.

‘It’s absolutely crucial that yellow box junctions are enforced fairly and, as things stand, this may not be the case which will mean many drivers will be treated poorly and lose out financially as a result.’ 

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