County Council may gain new traffic powers

New powers to enforce ‘moving traffic offences’ could be taken on by Devon County Council.

The authority’s ruling cabinet is being urged to take advantage of new rules which mean local councils can apply to enforce the driving errors for the first time and hand out fines.

Ollie Heptinstall, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

Moving traffic offences (MTO) include driving through a ‘no entry’ sign, driving the wrong way up a one-way street, entering yellow box junctions when there is no clear exit and driving in bus lanes.

Currently these offences are monitored and enforced by Devon and Cornwall Police.

The recommendation to apply for the new powers follows a review by a council scrutiny committee, which concluded that if correctly implemented they could reduce traffic congestion and reduce the number of accidents.

A council report, due to be considered by the cabinet next week, outlines how a limited number of sites are planned for “initial consideration” for the scheme. They are:

  • Heavitree Fore Street, Exeter – Bus Lane
  • Exe Bridges, Exeter – Bus Lane
  • Exe Bridges, Exeter – Yellow Box Junction
  • Penn Inn, Roundabout Newton Abbot – Yellow Box Junction
  • Topsham Road / Burnthouse Lane, Exeter – Bus Lane
  • The Square (near Boutport Street) Barnstaple – Bus Lane

“These locations have been selected as they are known to create and contribute towards congestion and are covered by existing CCTV infrastructure. In addition, Fore Street, Heavitree lies within an Air Quality Management Area,” the report explains.

Before making their application, Devon will need to “gather evidence that offences are occurring at their proposed enforcement locations, causing concerns for: safety, congestion, active travel priority or public transport reliability.”

Once this evidence is gathered, the report goes on to say that a minimum six-week public consultation will take place on the locations and types of moving traffic offences proposed for enforcement action.

For the first six months of operation, in accordance with national guidance, the first offence committed by a driver would produce a warning only.

Subsequent breaches would result in a £70 (higher level) or £50 (lower level) penalty charge, reduced to 50 per cent if paid within 21 days.

There would also be an appeal process available, like the one currently used for parking fines.

Councillor Alistair Dewhirst (Lib Dem, Ipplepen & The Kerswells), chair of the corporate infrastructure and regulatory services scrutiny committee which has made the recommendation, said: “We believe that there is a clear opportunity to improve traffic flow and safety on urban roads throughout Devon.

“However, this additional enforcement activity should be pursued with a common-sense approach that does not lead to disproportionate burden on motorists for minor misdemeanours.

“We are mindful that with an increase in the cost-of-living, additional charges will not be welcomed. However, there is an anticipated real benefit to keep traffic moving as well as to encourage safe driving.”

The cabinet will consider the idea, as part of its highways and traffic management policy review, on Wednesday [9 November].

If it backs the idea and the council’s application is successful, powers are likely to be confirmed by the end of 2023.

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