City drivers hit with one million penalties a year for bus lane misuse
Over 1.1 million Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) were issued to drivers in UK cities for misusing bus lanes last year.
New data compiled by the RAC shows 1,128,259 notices were given out – which equates to around 3.4 million between 2015 and 2017.
The research – which was gathered from a freedom of information request to London and city councils – means that over £68 million a year can be obtained from PCNs, or approximately £200 million over three years.
The number of notices issued has also risen 5% over the last three years.
The RAC has now called for a review into national signage guidelines and the introduction of smart bus lanes – to limit the number of those misusing bus lanes accidentally and to help make things clearer for motorists.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “Bus lanes have a vital role to play in ensuring the reliability of public transport as they help to keep our urban areas moving. But the sheer quantity of fines – more than a million every year – suggests something is awry and we don’t believe the vast majority are knowingly breaking the rules.
“While there is clearly no defence for deliberately driving in a bus lane, we believe more can be done to make it obvious to drivers when they can and can’t drive in one.
“A lot of this is down to improving signage. Every city driver will be familiar with the blue bus lane sign, but on city centre streets with a lot of signage ‘clutter’ it can be very easy to miss the specific times of operation. This poses the risk of drivers straying into bus lanes when they shouldn’t be or avoiding using one when they are actually allowed to.”
He added: “We also think it is time we saw modern technology being used to make things clearer for road users, which would also have the benefit of making the best use of available road space at times when bus lanes can be used by all vehicles. Stretches of smart motorway use roadside signs to indicate which lanes are open and closed – we believe towns and cities should now consider introducing ‘smart bus lanes’ that use similar signage, so drivers clearly know when they are permitted to use bus lanes.”
Of all the areas included in the research, Manchester City Council was found to have issued the most notices – with 352,688 being handed out between 2015 and 2017.
172,311 were sent out in 2017 alone.
The second highest number of notices were issued in Glasgow between 2015 and 2017, with 339,402 sent in total. Cardiff, Bradford and Nottingham followed with 267,713, 208,790 and 194,993 notices respectively.
PCN fines vary significantly across the UK, costing between £80 and £160 in London – depending on how quickly a driver pays – in contrast to around £60 for some more rural areas.
The study also found some disparities in the data, for example there was no correlation in certain areas between the number of bus lane cameras or miles of bus line compared to the volume of PCNs being issued.
The organisation says this is because there are a variety of factors influencing the figures – including improved signage, stricter enforcement and better use of bus lane cameras.