RAC says yellow box junctions should be looked at further before councils begin issuing moving traffic fines from June
Drivers face an 'avalanche' of wrongly-issued fines, warns the RAC, when councils are given the power to fine motorists for moving traffic offences in two months time.
Councils will shortly be able to issue fines of up to £70 for offences such as driving through no entry signs, stopping in yellow boxes or going the wrong way up a one-way street - crimes that at the moment only police can tackle drivers for outside of London.
Using ANPR cameras to catch vehicles breaking the rules, the government is allowing local authorities to apply for the new powers from June 1.
But motoring organisation the RAC has blasted some of the proposals, in particular the ability councils will have to enforce offences committed inside yellow boxes, designed to prevent gridlock at junctions, claiming that many junctions have design faults that cause drivers to become trapped through no fault of their own while some are so badly maintained it's hard to see where marked yellow lines start and finish.
The RAC is calling on the government to improve its official design, maintenance and enforcement guidelines before councils get the new powers to prevent thousands of drivers being wrongly fined for committing offences that won't be their fault.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes 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.
"This will inevitably lead to an unnecessarily high number of appeals for local authorities to review, as well as some poor outcomes for drivers.
“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."
The RAC says without improvements to many yellow box junctions across the country it expects fines to be issued in the wrong circumstances which drivers will want to appeal because they've been treated unfairly.
Mr Lyes added: “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.
“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.”
In August 2020, the RAC published findings from a Freedom of Information request which showed that councils in London and Cardiff raked in £86m between 2016 and 2019 from 1.3m penalty charge notices (PCNs).
More than £31m was accrued in the financial year 2018/19 from over half a million PCNs alone.
The RAC says it believes the figures demonstrate how 'lucrative' box junction enforcement can be for councils as well as how important it is to have updated guidance before these powers are extended to other English councils.
It has commissioned chartered engineer Sam Wright, formerly responsible for the design and approval of yellow boxes on the Transport for London road network, to write a report explaining how yellow box offences are enforced in the capital with a view to highlighting the potential confusion that lies ahead once councils begin enforcing them with cameras.
Sam Wright explained: "The key design principle is that yellow boxes should be no bigger than is necessary to prevent vehicles obstructing through movements. They are not designed for, and serve no purpose in, situations where vehicles are travelling in the same direction.
"The second main condition is that drivers should have adequate visibility beyond the box to be able to make a clear judgement before entering it.
"It’s not just that drivers need to see the end of the box, they need to see that there is space beyond the box for their vehicle to fit without any part of it overhanging. In the case of a car that will be 5-6m. For larger vehicles, it will be up to 15m.
"I think designers should have to take a car out in rush hour to see if they can negotiate the box without stopping, before insisting that others do the same.
"Drivers may also be surprised to hear that there is no legal requirement for authorities to meet this design criteria and it’s simply down to the competence of the enforcing authority."