'Big Brother' CCTV to stop Bristol drivers breaking Highway Code
MOTORISTS could soon be given fines for minor offences – if the city council receives permission to introduce Big Brother-style road junction cameras.
The authority, which already fines car drivers who use bus lanes, could be given the power to punish motorists who stop in keep-clear yellow box junctions, perform illegal U-turns or carry out banned turns at traffic lights.
If the government grants the city's request, CCTV cameras would be used to enforce the Highway Code at key junctions and accident blackspots.
The council said drivers were ignoring instructions and insisted the beefed-up measures were needed to protect pedestrians and ease congestion.
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But motoring groups said drivers could be penalised for "innocent mistakes" and said the powers could be used by the council to raise funds.
Bristol is one of a handful of local authorities to have asked the government for the new powers. At the moment, only councils in London have them - and handed out 800,000 fines last year.
In Bristol, the police currently issue fines for Highway Code infringements.
The council would use CCTV cameras and Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology to track drivers, with fines likely to be set at about £70.
City council spokeswoman Kate Hartas said: "Bristol is one of the authorities seeking powers to protect yellow box junctions, and to enforce the regulations for banned turns.
"It is doing so in order to ease serious traffic congestion around box junctions and protect pedestrians from accidents caused by unexpected and illegal manoeuvres at dangerous corners."
The council pointed to the junction between Church Road and Blackswarth Road in St George as one trouble-spot.
Ms Hartas said: "Too many motorists ignore the banned left turn out of Blackswarth Road, and, on turning, drive over a green pedestrian crossing. It is extremely dangerous. If the council could stop this happening without imposing fines through camera enforcement, it would do so."
Another trouble spot mentioned was a banned right turn into Marsh Street from Baldwin Street.
Ms Hartas said lots of drivers try to make the turn, not realising that it causes big tailbacks.
She also pointed to some box junctions the council may want to enforce with cameras, including those on the St James Barton, Old Market and Hicks Gate roundabouts.
She insisted the council would not profit from any new powers, saying any cash raised would be put back into improving safety.
Under the Highway Code drivers must not enter a yellow box junction unless the exit is clear or if they are turning right but need to wait in the box because of oncoming, moving traffic.
Paul Hunt, of the Bristol Advanced Motorists group, said the design of some road junctions would mean many cars unable to avoid stopping in the yellow box at certain junctions.
He said: "We will have to see whether it is to improve road safety, traffic flow or to raise money.
"Look at the parking issue – a lot of councils are introducing parking orders against public opinion.
"Because people have to move about, it might be an easy way to generate money."