Drivers are being warned to expect an “avalanche” of fines over upcoming changes to yellow box junctions in the Highway Code.
Yellow box junctions are designed to prevent gridlocked traffic, but many motorists are fined for using them incorrectly.
Councils across England will soon be able to enforce fines for ‘incorrect’ use of yellow box junctions, but the changes have been criticised by experts over fears it could lead to many drivers being “treated poorly”.
What are the changes to the yellow box junctions?
The Department for Transport (DfT) will soon begin accepting applications from councils in England to issue fines for moving traffic offences. These include yellow box misuse, making an illegal turn or driving the wrong way down a one-way street, as part of efforts to promote cycling and walking.
Successful applicants will be able to issue penalty charge notices (PCNs) for these offences from 1 June, meaing drivers could be fined for stopping in a yellow junction box.
The Highway Code states: “You MUST NOT enter the box until your exit road or lane is clear. However, you may enter the box and wait when you want to turn right, and are only stopped from doing so by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.”
Currently, the police are responsible for issuing ‘moving traffic’ fines, except in London and Cardiff, but in 2020, Transport for London (TfL) issued 76,977 fines for yellow box junction incidents.
Almost 300 councils in England will be able to apply to the Department for Transport (DfT) for the right to issue penalties to drivers when the new changes begin in June.
Drivers issued with a penalty charge notice (PCN) can be fined up to £130 for using the yellow box incorrectly. Although this may be halved (£65) if the fine is paid within a fortnight.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “These new powers are designed to improve cycle safety, air quality and support of bus services. It’s for local authorities to enforce them and ensure they meet local needs.”
When will the changes to yellow box junctions kick in?
From 1 June 2022, councils will be able to issue charges for yellow box junctions violations.
Under current rules, most councils can only issue PCNs for parking and driving in bus lanes.
Experts have criticised the move and have expressed concerns about the easily enforced fines, as stopping in a yellow box area may not always be the driver’s fault.
Temporary road works, lights, pedestrians, or other vehicles could all make someone stop inside a yellow box junction.
The RAC is concerned that many have “design flaws” such as being too large or having buildings or street furniture obstructing the view of where they end, causing drivers to be trapped through no fault of their own. The situation can be compounded by faded lines which are difficult to see.
The motoring services company claimed that many motorists will be unfairly punished unless the government improves its design, maintenance and enforcement guidelines for local authorities.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC’s head of roads policy, 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.
“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.
“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 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.”