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LGA calls for councils to use cameras to halt drivers stopping in yellow boxes

LGA calls for councils to use cameras to halt drivers stopping in yellow boxes

The Local Government Association has called on the government to give local authorities additional powers to use cameras to catch drivers who stop in yellow box junctions.

Currently, only local authorities in London and Cardiff are able to enforce yellow box junctions with cameras and issue penalty charge notices (PCNs), but many more councils in England and Wales would like to be able to use cameras to enforce these often troublesome and controversial junctions, it is claimed.

The RAC, which says it is “generally supportive of local authorities having the power to enforce yellow box junctions”, argues that if the government was to grant local authorities the same powers that were already being used in London and Cardiff it was “highly likely” there would be a “massive rise” in the number of drivers being issued penalty charge notices (PCNs).

The Local Government Association, however, has called for cameras to be put into place nationally, arguing the police have largely ceased to enforce moving traffic offences since legislation was introduced.

Cllr Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “To reduce congestion, improve air quality, road safety and quality of life in our towns and villages, the government needs to consider extending councils’ powers to enforce moving traffic offences from London to the rest of the country.

“Giving councils outside London the powers to enforce offences such as banned turns and obstructing yellow box junctions, would help unblock congestion hotspots that delay buses, lengthen journey times and reduce pollution from stationary and slow-moving traffic.

“It would also help cyclists ride more safely and prevent disruption by the small minority of rogue lorry drivers that incorrectly use weight restricted roads through our towns and villages.”

The call came as new RAC research revealed that eight in 10 motorists struggled to get through yellow box junctions without stopping and almost half (46%) admitted they sometimes got stuck in them accidentally.

Two-thirds of drivers (67%) said they found it difficult to get through some yellow box junctions without stopping, while 13% said that was the case for most they encountered. The same percentage (13%) however, believed every yellow box junction was easy to negotiate without coming to a halt on the lines.

Among those who claimed it was difficult to drive through a yellow box junction without needing to stop, more than three-quarters (78%) thought it was very often due to poor sequencing of traffic lights. A third (32%) blamed their infringement on the fact so many other drivers broke the rules in that way that it forced them to do the same. One in five (20%) said they were badly designed and 15% believed they were often used in the wrong places.

Yellow box driving rules are normally enforced by police, however declining officer numbers and the difficulty of catching offenders had resulted in little or no enforcement, leading to calls for a roll-out of camera enforcement elsewhere, said the RAC.

Asked whether councils across the country should be able to issue PCNs to any driver that came to a standstill in one, more than a third (36%) of drivers surveyed by the RAC thought it was a good idea that would help prevent congestion at junctions. Another 36% agreed they ought to have the power, but should limit enforcement only to problem junctions. A quarter (24%), however, were adamant local authorities should not have those powers.

But a majority of the 1,990 drivers questioned in the RAC survey would like to see a softer approach to enforcement if local authorities were able to use cameras to issue PCNs, with nearly two-thirds saying a warning letter should be sent in the first instance, followed by a fixed amount PCN for subsequent infringements.

A fifth (21%) thought there should be a lower penalty charge for a first infringement, but a higher one for subsequent offences if caught again within a 12-month period; and 13% claimed it should be a fixed amount PCN, reduced for early payment, no matter how many times a driver was caught.

In separate data seen by the RAC, Transport for London (TfL) issued a total of 123,071 PCNs in the last financial year for yellow box contraventions - up from 108,164 the year before. The top location for yellow box contraventions was the exit of the Wandsworth fire station on West Hill where 16,707 PCNs were issued to drivers in the last financial year, followed by the fire station exit on Homerton High Street where 12,071 were issued to drivers.

The top five locations on TfL roads for yellow box contraventions between 1 April, 2017 to 31 March, 2018 were:
  • Wandsworth fire station exit on West Hill, SW18  16,707
  • Homerton fire station exit on Homerton High Street  12,701
  • Hanger Lane/Ealing Village junction, W5  8,033
  • Euston Road/Judd Street/Midland Road junction  5,595
  • Peckham High Street/Peckham bus station exit (east box)  5,432

Under the Traffic Management Act 2004 local authorities in England and Wales could be allowed to enforce ‘moving traffic’ contraventions such as disregarding yellow box junction markings. Scotland, however, would have to introduce new legislation as the country was not covered by the legislation.

Despite a recommendation from the House of Commons Transport committee seven years ago for councils to be given these powers by 2013, the government said in 2015 it had no plans to activate them.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Our research shows yellow box junctions are a very divisive issue with drivers. While the majority are in favour of councils more widely being allowed to use cameras to catch offenders, there is a strong feeling that many junctions are not set up fairly which leads to drivers having no choice but stop in them, whether that’s due to poor traffic light sequencing, poor design or being used in the wrong place.

“Box junctions can also heighten stress for drivers as those at the front of traffic lights often feel pressured to move on as a result of impatient drivers behind who don’t realise they are being prevented from doing so by the presence of yellow lines.

“The RAC is generally supportive of local authorities having the power to enforce yellow box junctions because of the value of local knowledge, but has concerns that it could lead to local authorities being inconsistent in their application of road traffic law. There is also a risk that cash-strapped authorities may see it as a lucrative revenue stream. To prevent this, we think warning letters for a first contravention would be appropriate.

“We therefore believe it is essential that every yellow box junction where a camera is installed is comprehensively tested to ensure it is easy to negotiate without stopping.”

A guide to yellow box junctions:
  • Why do yellow box junctions exist? They are used to keep traffic flowing by ensuring the road space is kept free for moving vehicles coming from different directions
  • How to drive in a yellow box junction? Drivers may enter a yellow box junction when their exit from it is clear and there is sufficient space on the other side for their vehicle to clear the box without stopping; drivers may only stop in a yellow box junction if turning right and are prevented from doing so by oncoming traffic or vehicles ahead are also turning right; if the exit is not clear and drivers are not turning right then no part of their vehicle should enter the yellow box; the principle and the rules are the same for a yellow box junction on a roundabout
  • Blocking a yellow box junction means that everyone else gets blocked
  • The rules around yellow box junctions are covered by rule 174 of the Highway Code.