Our guide to box-junction fines

Our guide to box-junction fines
Box junctions have hit the headlines in recent months, with a sharp upturn in the number of drivers claiming to have been unfairly singled out for fines.

For a number of reasons (some more controversial than others) more box junction fines are issued in London than anywhere else.

This could increase outside of London too as motorists may soon be subjected to the same rules throughout other areas of the country.

Here, we take a look at the rise of the box junction fine and how you can avoid being unfairly penalised.

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Controversial box junction fines in London

If you drive in the capital, be particularly careful around box junctions. Transport for London (TfL) and London’s councils manage the road networks but have come under fire from some motorists who claim they’re using box junctions as cash cows.

Vehicle owners can be fined for entering box junctions even if they weren't driving the car at the time.

Thanks to a ‘loophole’ in legislation passed in 2003, TfL is chasing the owners of vehicles – not the drivers – to cough up for traffic offences. So even if someone else was driving your car at the time of the violation, you’re liable for the £130 charge as you’re the registered owner.

And because yellow box infringements are classed as civil rather than criminal offences, you have no right to defend yourself in court.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about driving in London

London councils ‘raking in the cash’ - other councils could soon follow

Some London councils have been accused of using box junctions to rake in thousands of pounds from drivers who infringe the rules because of poor traffic management in the capital.

Most London councils have camera-monitoring box junctions, enabling them to enforce the regulations.

For example, a yellow box junction on Purley Way in Croydon has racked up more than £62,000 in fines in a year. A Freedom of Information request shows that 989 penalty charge notices were issued between June 1, 2017 and May 31, 2018.

Motorists say the junction is on the brow of a hill so once they realise traffic is queued on the other side, it’s too late to go back and they have no choice but to stop in the box.

Meanwhile, another box in Fulham earned Hammersmith and Fulham Council £2.4 million in fines in just 18 months.

Plans for box junction enforcement outside London

Councils in the rest of the country are now seeking the same powers as London to fine drivers for stopping in box junctions.

Currently, everywhere apart from London and Cardiff has minor road offences handled by the police, except bus lanes. But groups such as the Local Government Association are lobbying for them to fall under the remit of councils.

However, critics of the plans have suggested that councils are only proposing the move to squeeze more money out of motorists. 

If the proposals were accepted by the Government, councils would be able to set up more cameras at box junctions. 

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Box junctions explained

If you’re new to driving they might seem intimidating. But, if you’re clear on the rules, box junctions shouldn’t be something to fear – we tell you everything you need to know.

What is a box junction?

A box junction is a traffic control measure designed to prevent gridlock at junctions. It’s easy to recognise – in the UK, it’s a yellow box filled with criss-cross yellow lines painted on the road.

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, which we’ll get to later.

READ MORE: Advanced Stop Lines – what are they and can I get fined for entering one?

When is a box junction used?

Box junctions 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.

You won’t find yellow lines at all crossroads with signals. That’s because they’re not necessary. Although you might sometimes find yourself blocking traffic because you’re queuing to exit the junction, this isn’t too much of a problem if traffic is lighter as any congestion can be cleared more quickly.

What if you’re turning right at a box junction?

If you want to turn right, 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.

READ MORE: 10 driving offences you didn’t know were illegal

What is the punishment for breaking the box junction law?

Any motorist caught stopping on the yellow grid illegally can be fined for obstructing traffic.

Many box junctions have cameras in place, and you could be fined up to £70 if you’re caught using the box incorrectly.

On routes in London, the penalty charge notice is currently £130, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days. The charge is expected to rise to £160 later in the year in line with the penalty for non-payment of the Congestion Charge.

You can appeal against the fine if you think you can prove your innocence, but if you don’t win your case it could be a costly and time-consuming process.

Tips to avoid a penalty charge notice

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

Don’t ignore the rules of box junctions just because a traffic light is green

Don’t let other drivers pressure you into entering the box when a clear exit is not available

 

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