Drivers will be aware that, especially in UK cities, it is increasingly common to find cameras ‘policing’ moving traffic. As a result, drivers will sometimes only learn about their motoring misdemeanour when a fine notice drops through their letterbox.
Even private and motor trade insurers start to get twitchy if they hear about a driver picking up a string of moving traffic offences – with some ready to increase the price of a motor insurance policy, based on what some companies have termed evidence of a ‘blatant disregard’ of motoring law.
Unfortunately, for many motorists, things are about to get even worse.
The ‘yellow peril’
Councils in England will soon be able to apply to the Government for powers to enforce ‘moving traffic offences’ and punish offenders by issuing their own penalty charge notices. Until now, only the police and councils in London and Cardiff had the right to do so.
But from 01 June 2022, all councils can request the right to tap into this new, lucrative source of local authority funding. The RAC predict that the most controversial aspect of these new powers is likely to be fines issued to motorists who block the countless yellow boxes on our roads.
Offences coming under council control Under the Traffic Management Act, 2004, the most common moving traffic offences include:
- driving in a bus lane or cycle lane
- ignoring no right/left turn signs
- driving the wrong way in a one-way street
- performing an illegal U turn
- blocking a yellow box junction
These are the offences councils can now opt to police and it won’t just be drivers who fear their suffering is about to increase. More broadly across the Motor Trade, hire car firms, motor dealers and mechanics who offer courtesy cars, are constantly hit by fines and paperwork relating to the parking offences of drivers using a car on hire and ignoring any fixed penalty notices they receive.
These increased council powers are sure to make the problem of clearing up the legal mess left by absconding drivers even worse.
What’s a yellow box offence?
One headache for drivers will be what is, and what is not a yellow box offence. Most will understand and appreciate these boxes are designed to keep traffic flowing, many drivers too will know that entering such a box is illegal if you can see your exit is already blocked. But how many will know it’s not illegal to stop if you are forced to do so to observe a red light?
How many of us understand that, in general terms, the law says you actually commit the offence at the moment you enter a box (if you know your exit is blocked). Therefore, no offence is committed if events only change and cause you to stop after you have entered the box – such as when another driver suddenly switches lanes, and thus blocks your exit.
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The RAC also believe there are numerous active yellow box junctions which contravene current box design regulations. For instance, all boxes must have clear and adequate visibility beyond the box. After all, you cannot know your exit is clear if you cannot see the space you are about to drive into, it appears there are many current box junctions where this is just impossible.
Furthermore, the regulations permit yellow box areas to be used to keep road access clear for emergency vehicles (fire, police, and ambulance), yet many towns also have bus stations and similar, with yellow box junctions to keep the road clear – but these are simply illegal.
Highlighting the chaotic situation in many cities, 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.”