The Government has been urged to step in on behalf of drivers to fight â€œrampantâ€ ticketing for parking and bus lane infringements.
Motoring organisation the AA has launched its Caught in a Trap campaign, calling for enforcement to focus on deterring offenders rather than raking in money from fines.
It is calling for councils and private parking firms to take a lighter touch when it comes to enforcing parking charges and for first-time offenders who get caught in a bus lane or yellow box junction to be given a warning rather than an immediate fine.
In a letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, the AA has also suggested that drivers who successfully appeal against a penalty charge notice should receive compensation and that enforcement should be suspended in areas with particularly high offences so the scheme can be redesigned.
With towns and cities packed with shoppers in the run-up to Christmas the AA is warning that they could be punished for inadvertently breaking the rules on parking and has called for a fairer treatment of â€œhonest mistakesâ€ after drivers were treated like â€œlambs to the slaughterâ€ over the busy summer months.
“[We need]Â targeted fines that direct driver behaviour not punish every single little mistake because it is a nice little earner for councils and private companies”
Edmund King, AA President
The group points to Freedom of Information evidence which showed that some of the UKâ€™s most popular tourist destinations made millions of pounds from penalty charge notices in just a few months. A sample of 50 councils across the country showed they raised more than Â£16 million in fines income between July and September.
The figures show a huge variance in how councils treat infringements, with some bringing in millions of pounds and some less than Â£5,000 for similar numbers of visitors. Stratford on Avon council, which sees 5.1m tourist visitors a year made just Â£2,169 from parking fines which Edinburgh City Council, which welcomes 4m visitors a year, made Â£2,338,050 over the summer.
AA president Edmund King said: â€œWhat is clear from the FOIs is that some councils enforced their summer car parking with a light touch, while others used a sledgehammer.
â€œHere lie the absolute fundamentals of our campaign: the need to restore the balance between enforcement and deterrence, and the need for targeted fines that direct driver behaviour – not punish every single little mistake because it is a nice little earner for councils and private companies.
â€œWe acknowledge and welcome the fact that some councils are offering Christmas shoppers periods of free parking. However, having raked in millions of pounds in parking fines during the tourist season, we fear many councils and private parking companies will do the same in the run-up to Christmas.â€
The AA has also called for authorities to examine hotspots for fines, arguing that high levels of offence suggest a deeper problem than poor driver behaviour.
Edmund King added: â€œWhen a location produces tickets by the hundreds and thousands year in and year out, the cause needs to be understood and rectified – not tapped for every pound a council or private company can get.â€
The AAâ€™s steps to fairer enforcement
- First time bus lane offenders should be sent a warning letter rather than a penalty notice
- First time yellow-box junction offenders should be sent a warning letter rather than a penalty notice
- It should be a condition of automated enforcement (e.g. by camera) that councils publish data â€“ number of tickets by location, monthly
- The number of private parking company requests for Vehicle keeper data from DVLA should be reported by location, monthly
- There should be a limit on the number of tickets issued at any single location, above which enforcement activity must be suspended pending a review of the schemeâ€™s design
- There should be compensation â€“ perhaps to the value of the PCN â€“ for drivers who win their appeals or where councils simply fail to contest them.
- Parking tickets that still have time on them should be transferable
- CO2-related residents parking permit charges should be scrapped, with permit charges based only on set-up, administration and enforcement costs.
- Standardisation of parking signs so that drivers can understand car park rules easily.