According to research conducted by Confused.com, over 880,000 fines were doled out to drivers caught using bus lanes illegally last year.
One of the most famously confusing challenges on Britain’s roads is clearly taking its toll on drivers who are often confused and uncertain of the laws regarding bus lanes. Of course, some drivers are willfully negligent in their driving and are happy to drive in bus lanes when they shouldn’t, but that research by Confused.com has also revealed that 48% of motorists have unknowingly driven in a bus lane.
If nearly half of all road users are unwittingly driving in bus lanes, the odds seem to be a bit fixed against drivers at the moment. You’d better believe they are paying dearly for it – fines totalled £41m in 2017!
Drivers in Scotland have been hit the hardest, forking out £7.6m for their sometimes-accidental sins, with London just behind on £7.5m. Clued up (or with forgiving local authorities), the North East paid out a meagre £227,225 in 2017, making it the region with the lowest fines.
So, what can you do to avoid shelling out big bucks next time you’re going for a pleasant drive in Edinburgh or Ealing?
They aren’t by every bus lane, but keep your eye out for signs stating operating times – if a sign lists the operating hours as Mon-Fri 8am-6pm, stay out in those hours! It’s no different to parking in restricted areas – the times stated on the sign are when the restrictions are in force. If it is outside of the stated hours, feel free to stick your indicator on and cruise in the bus lane with impunity.
Not all bus lanes use different-coloured tarmac, but they are almost always indicated by a solid or dashed white line. The dashed lines represent the start and end of the lanes and the solid line runs along the length of the lane. If the lane is in operation, do not cross any of these lines.
There are some very specific occasions when you can enter a bus lane even during its operating hours:
- If there is a blockage or obstruction in the road
- If there is an emergency vehicle approaching
- To avoid an incident
If you receive a fine for driving illegally in a bus lane, you can contest it. If, as in one of the examples listed above, you had good reason to enter the bus lane, you can follow the procedure listed on the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or your council’s website to lodge an appeal. Time is of the essence, though, as you have just 28 days to pay or appeal your fine. If you wait longer than 28 days, you will lose the right to appeal, face a higher charge, and could even end up with bailiffs knocking on your door.
The best advice we can give to avoid bus lane confusion is to drive with awareness of your surroundings, keeping an eye out for signs and lane markings. This gives you the best chance of spotting when and where bus lane restrictions are in place but if you cannot spot any of the tell-tale signs, don’t risk it and stick to your lane (as long as it is safe and practicable to do so).