Bus lane fines put drivers off moving out of the way of emergency vehicles


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One in 10 drivers would not move into a bus lane to let a fire engine, ambulance or police car through - even if the sirens were on and the blue lights flashing.

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One in 10 drivers would not move into a bus lane to let a fire engine, ambulance or police car through - even if the sirens were on and the blue lights flashing. The figure is even higher in London, rising to one in six (17%) an AA Populus poll reveals. A fear of being fined means that, although 13% of the 18,026 AA members surveyed would not stop in a yellow box junction to allow emergency vehicles to pass, nearly one in five (19%) of Londoners wouldn't. London is the only part of the UK where yellow box junctions have been enforced with cameras. Many UK cities fine drivers £60 for entering a bus lane; this is reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days. In London, the penalty charge is £130, halved for early payment. Drivers in London face the same if they stop in a yellow box junction. According to the survey more drivers are prepared to carry out riskier manoeuvres to help emergency vehicles on their way, with 48% prepared to go through red lights and 31% prepared to exceed the speed limit, although they lay themselves open to prosecution by the police. Earlier this year the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford reported about Maurice and Lilian Owens, who were fined £60 by Bradford Council after pulling into a bus lane to move out of the way of an ambulance responding to an emergency. And, in 2013 the Herald Scotland covered the story of Dr Catherine Berry, who was fined £30 by Glasgow City Council for moving into a bus lane to make way for two fire engines with their sirens flashing. Luckily for the drivers in these cases, they had the decision overruled and their fines were waived, with Ms Berry telling the Herald she felt it was a shame it came down to an appeal and that a commonsense approach should be taken in the future. Overall, 39% wouldn't worry about bus lanes, red lights, box junctions, speed limits, or pulling up on to the pavement if an emergency vehicle needed to get past. "Drivers think: 'but for the grace of God go we - because, the next time, that emergency vehicle could be for us'. And that is why most AA members and other drivers will risk the chance of a penalty charge to save a life," said Edmund King, the AA's president. "In return, too many bus lane, yellow box junction and moving traffic offence enforcers will seize the opportunity to dish out a penalty charge. Inevitably, some drivers won't take the risk and it only takes one to block and hold up an ambulance or fire engine. "The firms and councils operating enforcement cameras say that they take the presence of an on-call emergency vehicle before issuing a penalty notice but, too often, that's not the case."


What is a good reason for driving in a bus lane?

There are a small number of reasons when it's OK to enter a bus lane during the time it is in operation. Some cities have sought to clarify their enforcement of bus lanes, such as Nottingham City Council which gives the following guidelines:  

  • When directed to do so by a police officer in uniform
  • To avoid a collision or debris in the road
  • To drop off or pick up a passenger
  • Owing to circumstances outside the control of the driver
  • To enter or exit a driveway to a roadside property

In all cases it is expected that the stay in the bus lane is as brief as possible.

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