Councils across England will soon be able to enforce fixed penalty notices for traffic infringements such as stopping in a yellow box. Currently, only councils in London and Cardiff, and police forces elsewhere, have the authority to issue fines for moving traffic offences. But from June 1, all councils across England will be able to issue heavy fines to motorists committing these traffic infringements, such as driving through ‘no entry’, ‘no left’ and ‘no right’ turn signs and stopping in a yellow box.
The RAC has warned that drivers could be unfairly punished unless the Government urgently improves the design and maintenance of yellow boxes.
The organisation has also called on the government to issue adequate enforcement guidance to local authorities.
Yellow boxes are used to prevent gridlock and busy junctions and ensure that traffic flows smoothly. Motorists should only enter them when their exit is clear or they are waiting to turn right.
Although RAC research shows that 57 per cent of drivers are generally in favour of yellow box junctions being enforced, it is concerned that many junctions have “design flaws” that leave drivers trapped through no fault of their own.
The RAC said that some yellow boxes are oversized or obstructed by buildings or road maintenance, while others are so poorly maintained that it is hard to see where the yellow markings start and finish.
The research also found that some were installed in the wrong place, and that pedestrian crossings and stop lines at some junctions made it more difficult for drivers to see whether they had space to make it through a junction rather than stop ahead of the yellow box.
Nicholas Lyes, the RAC head of roads policy, said: “In the absence of definitive guidance on the design, maintenance and enforcement of box junctions 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.
“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.”
The RAC also said that the official guidance on the yellow boxes was unsatisfactory and gave inadequate information on how they could be maintained.
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The organisation called for guidance to be updated when the powers are extended to all councils across England.
The warnings follow a report commissioned by the RAC into how yellow boxes are enforced in London to highlight potential problems for local councils ahead of the rule change in June.
In London, drivers face a £160 penalty charge for a box junction offence, which can be reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days and £70 in Cardiff, halved to £35 if paid early.
A Freedom of Information request by the RAC in 2020 found that the two cities raked in £31.4 million in the 2018-19 financial year alone after issuing more than half a million penalty charge notices for yellow box infringements.
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The two councils raised a staggering £86m between 2016 and 2019 from 1.3m penalty charge notices (PCNs), which showed just how lucrative these fines could be for councils.
Mr Lyes said: “We have written to the Department for Transport 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.”