The RAC has called for greater clarity on the rules surrounding so-called ‘yellow box’ junctions to prevent drivers being wrongly fined. The motoring organisation made the calls after Bath and North East Somerset Council revealed councils would soon be able to enforce moving traffic offences.
According to the council in the south-west of England, offences such as driving through ‘no entry’, ‘no left’ and ‘no right’ turn signs and stopping in yellow boxes could be enforced by councils from 1 June 2022, subject to a consultation. At the moment, only local authorities in London and Cardiff – and elsewhere the police – have the power to issue penalty charge notices for such transgressions.
The RAC says its research found 57 percent of drivers are generally in favour of yellow box junctions being enforced, but it has discovered “design flaws” in many junctions, causing drivers to infringe the boxes. It also claims some yellow boxes are so poorly maintained that it’s hard for drivers to see the lines, increasing the chances of infringement.
The motoring organisation says it learned of the issues with yellow boxes when it commissioned chartered engineer Sam Wright, formerly responsible for the design of yellow boxes in London, to write a report explaining how they are enforced in the capital. Wright revealed there is “no legal requirement” for authorities to meet key design principles for yellow boxes, including ensuring that no box is bigger than necessary and that drivers should have “adequate visibility beyond the box” to ensure they can fit their car in the gap beyond the box.
Back in August 2020, an RAC study used Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to reveal that councils in London and Cardiff made £86m between 2016 and 2019 from 1.3m penalty charge notices (PCNs). The organisation says this shows the yellow boxes are “lucrative” for councils, and the government should ensure boxes are fit for purpose before councils’ powers are extended.
“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,” said the RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes. “That 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. 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 fines being wrongly issued, no end of unnecessary stress for drivers who feel they have been unfairly treated and thousands of wasted council hours investigating appeals.”