Councils powers to fine drivers for moving traffic offences will be available from the Department for Transport from June
Councils are to be given new powers to slap drivers with hefty fines, of up to £70, for so-called moving traffic offences from this summer.
Ignoring no entry signs, stopping in yellow box junctions and driving in bus or taxi lanes are among the illegal actions local authorities will be able to issue penalty charge notices for - prompting concerns from some motoring organisations that councils may become over enthusiastic for 'revenue raising reasons'.
Inside London, local authorities already have the power to issue fines to drivers for various traffic violations they commit while on the move, but outside the capital enforcement responsibility currently rests with the police.
But from June, councils in England will be able to apply for the new road enforcement powers.
Making banned turns such as turning right or left into roads when road signs tell you not to do so, driving where vehicles are prohibited or ignoring maximum weight warnings are also among the offences council officials will also be able issue fines for under the new legislation designed to improve road safety and traffic conditions.
Rather than using traffic wardens - as district and borough councils do now in order to enforce parking rules and restrictions in their towns and cities - it is expected that councils will turn to technology and the positioning of ANPR-style cameras to pick-up drivers breaking the rules in hotspots officials know are a problem.
Councils will have to apply to the transport secretary for an order designating it an enforcement authority in its area before officials can begin issuing fines, which could be up to £70.
However both the RAC and AA have expressed caution with the roll-out of the new legislation from June.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said while he supported councils being able to crackdown where they know rules are deliberately being broken, there were concerns fines would also be issued to drivers where there were other factors at play.
He explained: "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.
“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.
“For example, large yellow box junctions can be particularly problematic to get across without stopping, often due to their design, so 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.”
Edmund King, AA president, agrees.
He suggests there should be a process to identify and examine problemtatic spots - while forcing councils to suspend enforcement until the causes of those problems can be identified and fixed - alongside 'first time' warning letters for those caught.
Pointing to problems in London in which penalty adjudicators can often investigate bad road layout as the reason behind an appealed fine, he says the motoring organisation doesn't want to see scenarios in which councils 'haul in tens of thousands of pounds' at locations they know are a problem.
He explained: “The experience of London with enforcement of moving traffic violations sends a clear message to MPs: the roll-out beyond the capital needs effective checks and balances.
"That includes identifying, analysing and rectifying the causes of fines hotspots. And, where a traffic tribunal adjudicator identifies a problem that is not just a one-off, the council should suspend enforcement and report back to the adjudicator on how it has been resolved.
“Alternatively, or better still additionally, first-time offenders should be sent a warning letter, as set out by the government previously.
"After all, the object of enforcement is to get road users to understand and comply with directions and restrictions – with the deterrence of fines if they deliberately ignore them.”