All councils in England and Wales will be given new powers to fine drivers who commit “moving traffic offences”, it has been confirmed.
The scheme – which is already in force in London and Cardiff – forms part of plans designed to improve the safety of roads for cyclists and pedestrians.
According to reports, the new powers will enable local authorities to hand out on-the-spot penalty fines of up to £70 for offences such as stopping dead in a yellow box junction, making an illegal turn, or driving down a “no entry” road – known as moving traffic offences.
It will be the first time councils outside of London and Cardiff are granted powers to fine motorists for such offences under the Traffic Management Act.
Commenting on the plans, transport minister Baroness Vere said: “Local authorities will need the tools to manage roads in the way that best serves local needs, which may vary in different parts of the country, and it is this ethos of localism that lies behind our decision to give more powers to local authorities under the Traffic Management Act.”
She added: “They will be expected to use these powers to improve connectivity, boost active travel, and increase air quality by reducing congestion.
“And to ensure this change is fair, we will publish guidance for local authorities, so they can make drivers aware that enforcement is being undertaken.”
RAC spokesman Simon Williams cautiously welcomed the plans but remains “fearful” that councils will simply use the powers to generate additional revenue.
According to the latest statistics, London authorities and Cardiff Council generated some £58.2 million in penalties in 2018/19 – an increase of 25 per cent compared to the previous year.
“It’s right that councils outside London have the ability to enforce known rule-breaking hotspots, but we’re fearful that some authorities may be over-enthusiastic in using their new powers for revenue raising reasons, to the detriment of drivers,” said Mr Williams.
“While the Government has pledged to give councils advice on how best to let drivers know enforcement is taking place, what’s really needed is clear guidance on making sure enforcement is always carried out fairly. Drivers who blatantly ignore signage or highway rules should expect penalties, but there are instances which are not always clear-cut.”
This is particularly true for yellow box junctions, he adds, as they are often poorly designed and “problematic to cross without stopping”.
“It’s important common sense is applied rather than instantly issuing penalties to drivers. The first thing councils should do is review the road layout at these junctions to make sure drivers can negotiate them at all times, but especially at busy periods.”
The new powers are set to come into effect from December 2021.
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