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Incredibly common driving mistake that saw a million motorists fined £60 each last year - and the councils are raking it in

Mirror logo Mirror 10/04/2018 Emma Munbodh
a bus that is parked on the side of a building © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited

Drivers across the country were handed more than a million fines last year, to the tune of £60 each, for driving or dipping into a bus lane.

In the UK's 20 largest cities, motorists received 1,128,259 penalty charge notices (PCNs) worth £68 million for councils.

Insurer RAC put a freedom of information request through to London councils and city councils to uncover where fines are highest - and where they've risen the most over the past three years. It found 1,129,613 fines were issued between 2015 and 2017, which amounted to more than £200 million for councils.

Related: Bus lane cameras rile motorists (Sky News)

The motoring giant has now issued a warning over concerns drivers are accidentally falling for confusing or inadequate signage.

It's called on the Government to review national signage guidelines and introduce 'smart bus lanes' to make roads clearer for motorists.

The city with the most fines

RAC's findings show that Manchester City Council issued the most notices between 2015 and 2017 - with 352,688 sent in total and 172,311 in 2017 alone. That's a 175% increase on 2015.

Glasgow was not far behind, issuing 339,402 notices between 2015 and 2017, although the city recorded a fall in the number sent to drivers annually over three years. Scotland’s most populous city was followed by Cardiff (267,713 notices), Bradford (208,790 notices) and Nottingham (194,993 notices).

Of the locations that saw the greatest increase in the number of notices issued to drivers, Birmingham was top with 31,768 sent for contraventions across its 19 miles of bus lanes in 2017, up from just 1,287 in 2015. That's despite no change in either the miles of bus lanes or the number of cameras.

© Sylvain Sonnet, Getty Images

The London Borough of Croydon saw a 787% increase, while fines in Havering went up by 439%. Of all London authorities that issue bus lane penalties, an average of 11,839 fines were issued each year per council.

Outside the capital, the picture is equally mixed. Of the 16 councils that provided full data, seven saw an increase in penalties handed out and nine saw a fall between 2015 and 2017. Of those authorities that issued PCNs for bus lane infringements, an average of 50,828 fines were issued by each council.

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."

How to make the system fairer

a sign on the side of a road: Credits: Stoke Sentinel © Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Credits: Stoke Sentinel

“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.

“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.”

© Jupiterimages, Getty Images

What's the penalty fine?

The fine for driving in a bus lane varies across the UK, with London levying some of the steepest charges (£160 or £80 if paid quickly), while other metropolitan and provincial areas charge much less (around £60).

The law dictates that local authorities have to issue the penalty charge notice within 28 days of the offence. Motorists can then pay the fine at a reduced rate if they do so quickly.

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