The RAC has called on the Government to improve its guidance to councils on yellow box junctions to avoid thousands of drivers being wrongly fined.
From 1 June councils will be able to apply to enforce moving traffic offences, such as driving through ‘no entry’, ‘no left’ and ‘no right’ turn signs and stopping in yellow boxes, which are used to prevent gridlock at junctions.
Currently, only local authorities in London and Cardiff have had the power to issue penalty charge notices for these infringements.
The RAC said that while its research shows 57% of drivers are generally in favour of yellow box junctions being enforced, it has discovered that many junctions have design flaws ‘which cause drivers to become trapped through no fault of their own, and that some are so poorly maintained that it’s hard to see where the yellow lines start and finish’.
The motoring organisation said it also believes the official guidance in Chapter 5 of the Traffic Signs Manual is generally unsatisfactory as it does not clearly state the specific purpose of box junctions or show how to design them in relation to vehicle movements at junctions, and lacks any information on how they should be maintained and enforced.
Its 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. 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.’
The RAC said design flaws include ‘junctions that have been installed in completely the wrong places, boxes that are larger than they should be and ones where buildings or street furniture obstruct drivers from seeing where boxes end, making it impossible to assess whether there is enough space beyond the junction for their vehicle to fit into’.
The RAC said it learned of the gaps in the official yellow box guidance when it commissioned chartered engineer Sam Wright, who was formerly responsible for the design and approval of yellow boxes on the Transport for London road network, to write a report explaining how they are enforced in the capital with a view to highlighting the potential confusion that lies ahead as local authorities begin enforcing them.
Mr Wright said: ‘The key design principle is that yellow boxes should be no bigger than is necessary to prevent vehicles obstructing through movements. They are not designed for, and serve no purpose in, situations where vehicles are travelling in the same direction.
‘The second main condition is that drivers should have adequate visibility beyond the box to be able to make a clear judgement before entering it. It’s not just that drivers need to see the end of the box, they need to see that there is space beyond the box for their vehicle to fit without any part of it overhanging. In the case of a car that will be five to six metres. For larger vehicles, it will be up to 15 metres. I think designers should have to take a car out in rush hour to see if they can negotiate the box without stopping, before insisting that others do the same.’
He added: ‘Drivers may also be surprised to hear that there is no legal requirement for authorities to meet this design criteria and it’s simply down to the competence of the enforcing authority.’