RAC uncovers problems with nine-in-10 yellow box junctions councils want to enforce

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On the back of the government’s decision last year to let councils outside London and Cardiff apply for powers to enforce moving traffic offences, some 27 local authorities have put forward proposals to enforce 111 yellow box junctions, a new report from the RAC reveals.

After commissioning chartered engineer Sam Wright, who was formally responsible for the design and approval of yellow boxes on the Transport for London road network, to review the applications the RAC believes there are issues with 90 per cent of the boxes which are likely to lead to drivers being fined unfairly.

In fact, more than half directly contravene the current government guidance, sometimes on multiple counts.

Breaches include 40 that pose visibility issues for drivers, 16 that are on the side of the road opposite T-junctions which the Department for Transport (DfT) states serves ‘no useful purpose’, 18 that extend beyond junctions such that they may be considered non-complaint with the regulations, and 9 that are in non-permitted locations according to the regulations.

Last year the RAC asked Sam Wright, who runs website Yellow Box Guru, to write a report on best practice for enforcing box junctions which highlighted gaps in the DfT’s guidance and a general lack of knowledge and understanding that could lead to many unfair fines being issued.

NEED TO KNOW: The purpose of yellow boxes is to prevent the blocking of ‘cross’ or ‘through’ traffic movements. If a box, or part of a box, does not protect a cross movement, it serves no purpose and any fine issued there is unnecessary.

Two of the biggest issues with many of the yellow box junctions that councils are looking to enforce relate to visibility and size – something that’s covered by the official guidance and has been reiterated by the previous Chief Adjudicator of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

Drivers need clear visibility of the box, and where it ends, in order to comply with their duty to only enter it if their exit is clear. If visibility is unclear, then fines are unfair.

Consultations have shown that many of the boxes proposed to be enforced do not conform with this requirement because visibility is blocked, boxes are too large for drivers to see where they end, or they simply do not cover cross movements.

The report’s findings show 90 (81%) of the boxes proposed for enforcement are unnecessarily large and 40 boxes (36%) have visibility issues.

In some cases, drivers can’t even see there is a box present because of faded road markings, let alone where it ends.

Sam Wright said: “Visibility issues are connected to the road layout, topography, buildings, box length, street furniture, trees, or a combination of these.

"While many boxes are barely visible at the moment due to a lack of maintenance, I chose to ignore this on the assumption that lines will be refreshed prior to enforcement.

"Crucially, I haven’t seen a single proposal that reviews the visibility of the box from a driver’s point of view.

"If you also factor in bad weather, poor light and other vehicles, then the poor visibility situation is exacerbated.

"This is all very concerning, especially as enforcement is carried out via cameras high in the air.”

RAC roads spokesperson Simon Williams said: “Fining people can have real financial consequences for those on the receiving end.

"Enforcing yellow boxes means that the driver of a vehicle overhanging a box by any amount for just a moment can get a ticket.

"Yet many drivers end up stopped or trapped in these junctions through no fault of their own.

"It is not only imperative, but a moral duty to ensure that fines are fair, justified and that the appeals’ process is consistent across the country.

“And in some cases, we believe enforcement may end up actually increasing congestion as a result of drivers hesitating before moving on for fear of being fined.

"This is the exact opposite of the justification for enforcement being undertaken.

“We urge the Government to carry out an urgent review of its yellow box junction guidance and clarify what is and isn’t enforceable."

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