Emergency vehicles blocked as motorists fear bus lane fines

Ambulance speeding in London street
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One in 10 drivers would not pull into a bus lane to give way to an emergency service vehicle, even it was approaching with its lights and sirens on.

The worrying statistic has been uncovered by a survey of over 18,000 motorists by the AA. The situation is even worse in London, where one in six drivers would refuse to let an ambulance or police car past if it meant risking a fine by entering a restricted lane.

It is this fear of fines that is the deciding factor in this behaviour. While 13 per cent of survey respondents stated that they'd not stop in a yellow box junction to allow an emergency service vehicle through, this rose to 19 per cent for drivers in London – the only place in the UK where the use of yellow box junctions are enforced through CCTV monitoring.

Fines for flouting the rules in London are also substantially higher. Where most UK cities fine drivers £60 (£30 if paid within 14 days) for straying into a bus lane, the capital's motorists are stung for £130 – again halved upon prompt payment. The same fine applies for stopping in a yellow box.

The survey did reveal, however, that a high proportion of drivers (39 per cent) wouldn't hesitate to let the emergency services through, whether that meant pulling into a bus lane, mounting the pavement or running a red light.

Drivers are often fearful of fines as authorities can be reluctant in using their discretion when penalising motorists for entering restricted areas when giving way to the emergency services.

AA president, Edmund King, said: "Drivers think: 'But for the grace of God go we – because, the next time, that emergency vehicle could be for us'. And that is why most AA members and other drivers will risk the chance of a penalty charge to save a life.

"In return, too many bus lane, yellow box junction and moving traffic offence enforcers will seize the opportunity to dish out a penalty charge. Inevitably, some drivers won't take the risk and it only takes one to block and hold up an ambulance or fire engine.

"The firms and councils operating enforcement cameras say that they take [into account] the presence of an on-call emergency vehicle before issuing a penalty notice but, too often, that's not the case."

Police advice on encountering emergency vehicles states that motorists should not break the law, and must not mount the pavement unless absolutely necessary, when trying to give way.

Have you ever been fined after giving way to a police car or ambulance? Did you have your ticket overturned? Have your say in the comments section below.