Guide to Yellow Box Junction Law
Welcome to the website of the 'Yellow Box Guru'. UK yellow box law is surprisingly complex, involving the dynamics of the movement, the physical box and enforcement and appeals legislation which differs in London, England and Wales. Altogether there are at least 10 different pieces of legislation. Most people are familiar with the highway code which states: "You MUST NOT enter the box until your exit road or lane is clear". The contravention code on tickets says something different: "Entering and stopping in a box junction when prohibited". However neither of these are actually the law. To kick off the confusion, you can see the highway code doesn't actually mention the word "stop". And what does "when prohibited" mean? Most people are not aware that it's not actually an offence to stop on a box per-say, there are all manner of circumstances that need to be taken into account. Also boxes and tickets have been deemed to not comply with the law meaning thousands of tickets were issued wrongly. Most drivers do not know enough about the law to know if they are guilty or not. And some of those issuing tickets also do not understand the law. Go through this checklist of you have a ticket.
About The Yellow Box Guru
I am a chartered engineer with 25 years experience passionate about good design and fair enforcement. I spent around 10 years specialising in the design of yellow boxes at the country's largest enforcer. I have also spent a great deal of time studying adjudicator decisions and I train others in the industry on how to audit and design boxes correctly. So complex is the law that almost every engineer I've met does not understand it. Even adjudicators (who decide on appeals) disagree on it. If the professionals are confused by it how can ordinary motorists be expected to understand it?
In London authorities have been able to enforce yellow boxes since 2004. In Cardiff since 2014. Drivers are fined up to £160 for stopping in them in London. Almost 400k tickets were issued at the top 100 boxes in London and Cardif in 2019. Recently law has been enacted to enable authorities outside London in England to apply to the Department for Transport for the powers to enforce them and 'civil enforcement' is being rolled out in many areas. Under the process of this civil or 'decriminalised' enforcement, if a motorist seeks help from a lawyer and wins their appeal, the legal fees cannot be claimed back as an expense. Sit down with a lawyer for an hour and you'd be lucky to get change out of £250, which is obviously more than the ticket cost, hence drivers are left in limbo. The purpose of this website is to set out the law in a simplified version to enable drivers to see if they are actually guilty and have grounds for appeal and to educate authorities to ensure tickets are issued correctly in the first place. Fining people is a serious business which can really affect peoples lives particularly in a cost of living crisis. Fair justice is a basic right for all.
If my advice has helped you please feel free to buy me a coffee!
Is Yellow Box Enforcement Fair?
When most people think of yellow box enforcement, they envisage junctions being deliberately blocked by selfish drivers. And most people including myself, have little sympathy for such drivers who get a ticket. However lots of drivers get stuck in boxes through no fault of their own. In addition, poor box design means they are often not causing an obstruction. Below I list 5 key areas in which enforcement can be unfair:
1. Box size
The dodgy boxes page explains how many boxes are too big. In fact in my experience the vast majority are too big. This means when someone stops on the start or end of them, they aren't causing, or don't have the potential to cause, an obstruction. Any part of a box not protecting a cross movement serves no purpose, the ticket serves no purpose and is thus unfair. Many of the most notorious boxes are also in front of small insignificant side roads. rather than the big busy junctions we imagine.
2. Left turners
Despite the fact they cause no obstruction to cross movements, we see (for example in the video below) enforcement targeting left turners who are just trying to exit side roads. A movement you might think the box was designed to actually help! Yes there is no exemption for it, but yellow boxes were never invented to stop people turning left. I have never designed one for this purpose, I don't know any other engineer who has and there is no Department for Transport guidance advising that boxes should be used for this purpose. There is no traffic reason for enforcing them.
Unlike other restrictions like banned turns, drivers must rely exclusively on seeing the marking on the road from the acute angle of the driver's seat. They must see exactly where it ends in order to comply with the highway code requirement to only enter if their exit is clear. It might be faded, obstructed by other vehicles or the road layout etc. The drivers view is very different to the camera view, as shown below - both are images of the same box. The camera operator never sees the driver's view.
4. Over zealous
The law is that any part of the vehicle in the box for any length of time is eligible for a ticket. There are many examples of enforcement targeting extremely minor stops not causing any obstruction, for example in the video below. This is what is meant by "over zealous" enforcement. It does not reduce congestion, "keep traffic moving" or improve "safety".
5. Judging length from an acute angle
Even when they can see the end of the box, the driver needs to judge if the space on the exit is big enough to fit their vehicle. In the first example below, it's a small box and close distance, yet still it would be easy to misjudge and overhang the box by a few inches. Now imagine a longer distance such as the second photo. Is the space on the right adequate? If you drove into and stopped in the middle of these boxes then clearly that's wrong and few people would shed a tear if you got a ticket. But a genuine attempt to clear the box and misjudging by a small amount is very different. Is it fair to expect people to be able to accurately judge length from an acute angle? Is it within the cognitive ability of humans? I would like to see some controlled trials and research on this issue.
6. Legal stops
Unfortunately I see many tickets being issued when the stop was legal. Either the camera operator doesn't understand the law, or they do but just give a ticket anyway.