London councils made between £8 million and £16 million generated by fines issued to drivers who stopped in yellow box junctions in the previous financial year, according to the RAC.
But many drivers claim they simply couldn’t avoid stopping in them, with the majority blaming poor sequencing of traffic lights around the junctions or other drivers blocking their path.
And more motorists could soon face the same penalties.
While only London and Cardiff councils have the powers to use cameras to catch motorists coming to a standstill in yellow boxes, declining police numbers could result in them being installed across England and Wales.
Boxed in: Eight in 10 drivers said they struggle get through some yellow box junctions without stopping
TfL data seen by the RAC showed that councils in the capital issued a total of 123,071 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) in the last financial year for yellow box contraventions – up from 108,164 the year before.
Motorists who receive a PCN face a fine of £130, though it is reduced to £65 if they pay within the first two weeks of receiving the notice.
If all fines were paid at the reduced rate, authorities would have raked in £7,999,615, while the total for the full penalty amount would hit a whopping £15,999,230.
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 period, followed by the fire station exit on Homerton High Street where 12,071 were issued to drivers.
London locations where the most PCNs were issued last year
1. Wandsworth fire station exit on West Hill, SW18 – 16,707 PCNs
2. Homerton fire station exit on Homerton High Street – 12,701 PCNs
3. Hanger Lane / Ealing Village junction, W5 – 8,033 PCNs
4. Euston Road / Judd Street / Midland Road junction – 5,595 PCNs
5. Peckham High Street / Peckham bus station exit (east box) – 5,432 PCNs
However, many drivers argue that it is not their fault that they’ve had to stop in the hatched yellow lines.
The motoring organisation’s research found that eight in 10 motorists find it a struggle to get through some yellow box junctions without stopping, and almost half (46 per cent) have been caught in one by accident.
Of the 1,990 RAC members surveyed who’ve fallen foul of a box junction, more than three-quarters said it was due to poorly structured traffic management.
Some 78 per cent said they are forced to hit the brakes in yellow box junctions because of poor sequencing of traffic lights beyond the turning.
A third blamed their infringement on other motorists.
The poll found that 32 per cent pointed the finger at fellow drivers who had broken road rules to either block their path or cause additional tailbacks outside the yellow box junctions, forcing them to come to a standstill.
One in five (20 per cent) simply said the junction they were caught in was badly designed and 15 per cent believe they are often located in the wrong places.
However, 13 per cent of the panel said they have no issues with yellow box junctions and find them easy to negotiate without coming to a halt on the hatched lines.
Could more drivers face yellow box junction fines soon?
Some 123,071 Penalty Charge Notices were issued to drivers in London in the last financial year, TfL stats showed
Currently, only local authorities in London and Cardiff are able to enforce yellow box junctions with cameras and issue PCNs.
But the RAC claims that many more councils in England and Wales would like to be able to use cameras to enforce these often troublesome and controversial junctions – simply because it generates substantial funds through penalties.
And there’s an increasing likelihood that Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras could be located at junctions across the country because of reduced policing numbers.
The rules of yellow box junctions are normally enforced by officers, however declining personnel and the difficulty of catching offenders has resulted in little to no enforcement at all, leading to calls for a roll-out of cameras instead.
And under the Traffic Management Act 2004 local authorities in England and Wales could be given the powers to enforce such ‘moving traffic’ contraventions.
If the Government was to grant local authorities the same powers that are already being used in London and Cardiff it’s highly likely we would see a massive rise in the number of drivers being issued penalty charge notices.
Despite a recommendation from the House of Commons Transport committee seven years ago for councils to be given the green light to use cameras at box junctions by 2013, the Government said in 2015 it had no plans to activate them.
The Local Government Association, however, has called for them to be put into place nationally, arguing that offences haven’t been enforced because of the dwindling police numbers.
Scotland would have to introduce new legislation if it was to allow camera enforcement as it’s not covered by the same traffic management act.
RAC spokesperson Simon Williams said: ‘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.
‘If the Government was to grant local authorities the same powers that are already being used in London and Cardiff it’s highly likely we would see a massive rise in the number of drivers being issued penalty charge notices.’
The rules of yellow box junctions are normally enforced by officers, however declining personnel and the difficulty of catching offenders has resulted in little or no enforcement, leading to calls for a roll-out of camera enforcement across England and Wales
Currently, only London and Cardiff have the powers to enforce these junctions with ANPR cameras
How should box junction infringements be dealt with?
Asked whether councils across the country should be able to issue PCNs to any driver that comes to a standstill in one, more than a third (36 per cent) of drivers surveyed by the RAC thought it was a good idea that would help prevent congestion at junctions.
Another 36 per cent agreed they ought to have this power, but should limit penalties only to problem junctions.
There were also differing opinions on how they should be enforced.
Almost two-thirds said offending motorists should initially receive a warning letter for their first infringement and a fixed amount PCN for subsequent violations.
A fifth (21 per cent) think 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.
Some 13 per cent claim offending motorists should continue to be fined in the same way as they are in London, with a fixed amount PCN, reduced for early payment, no matter how many times a driver gets caught.
A quarter (24 per cent), however, were adamant that local authorities should not have the powers to issue PCNs at all.
What is a yellow box junction and how do they work?
Everything you need to know about box junctions
Box junctions are a traffic control measure designed to prevent gridlock at junctions. They’re easy to spot in the UK – it’s a yellow box filled with hatched yellow lines painted on the road.
They tend to be found on large busy junctions such as crossroads, T-junctions and occasionally roundabouts to keep traffic flowing. They’re usually controlled by traffic lights, but not always.
Box junctions may also be used outside fire stations to keep a road space free to ensure fire engines always have a clear exit.
Under the rules of the Highway Code, you’re not allowed to enter the yellow box unless your exit is clear and there is enough space on the other side of the junction for your car to clear the box completely without stopping.
The exception is turning right and waiting for oncoming traffic to pass.
In this situation then you are allowed to enter the box and wait if you’re prevented from turning by oncoming traffic, or by other vehicles waiting to turn right.
It’s perfectly legal for you to wait on the yellow criss-cross provided your exit road is clear.
Be careful when queuing inside the box, though, as you might not have time to clear the junction before the traffic lights change.
The RAC said it favours the format of an initial warning letter followed by PCNs for repeat infringements.
‘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,’ said Mr Williams.
‘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.’
Tips to avoid getting a yellow box junction PCN
1. Check the exit is clear. If you automatically follow the vehicle in front of you, it may stop and prevent you from completely crossing the junction
2. Don’t ignore the rules of box junctions just because a traffic light is green
3. Don’t let other drivers pressure you into entering the box when a clear exit is not available
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