Is Taking A Wrong Turn Bigger Crime Than Shoplifting?

Tue 5th Oct 2021

As Transport for London aims to increase the penalty charge notice fine to £160, motoring campaigners are calling the rises ‘unacceptable’ and without justification.

Motorists who commit a range of road offences, such as stopping in a box junction, driving in a bus lane or stopping on one of the notorious red routes, now face a maximum £160 penalty, which is £70 more than the maximum fine for shoplifting or criminal damage and is twice as much as the daily minimum wage.

But the AA has written to TfL calling the increase ‘grossly unfair, shoddy and disturbing’.

“Someone who shoplifts, is drunk and disorderly or commits criminal damage can be given a £90 Penalty Notice for Disorder for a lower-level offence,” the AA’s public affairs spokesman, Luke Bosdet said in a letter written to TfL.

“Does society consider stopping in a yellow box junction or wandering into a bus lane to be a worse offence than stealing or criminal damage?

“The top level of minimum wage is £8.91 an hour. That provides an income of £71.28 for an eight-hour day. 

“For someone under the age of 18, it is £4.62. For a first-year apprentice, it is £4.30. Both those provide a daily income of less than £40.

“The question then is whether the loss of a day's wages or more matches an offence where, by mistake or perhaps because of bad signage, a driver's car might stop partially in a yellow box or wander into a bus lane for less than two seconds, without impeding other road users in either case.”

While TfL argues that the rises are in line with inflation and that all of the profits from the fines are reinvested in the capital’s transport network, the AA suggests that many of the cameras are simply placed to catch motorists in an impossible position, rather than deterring bad driving.

“The AA has argued previously in its 'Caught in a Trap' campaign that fines per location need to be monitored. This would show where restrictions and the related road layouts are ineffective, where signage, markings and design may need to be improved,” Bosdet continued.

“The job of enforcement is to maintain road flow not create easy money through unjustified fines - made more lucrative by increases that are out of kilter with financial penalties for far worse offences.”