Plan for 'super-wardens' to fine errant drivers

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The Independent Online

A new breed of "super traffic wardens" will be given the power to impose fines on drivers who break traffic laws.

Offenders could be fined up to £100 for entering a box junction where their exit is blocked or for ignoring "no right turn" signs. Their registration numbers would be recorded by "civil enforcement officers", who will include wardens, or automatically photographed by cameras at busy junctions.

Ministers expect the plans to receive a hostile reception from many drivers but they believe measures are necessary to combat dangerous driving and traffic congestion.

Damian Green, the shadow Transport Secretary, warned: "Motorists expect people enforcing the law to be trained to a very high standard and this could entail thousands of new people being given enforcement powers. Are they all going to be properly trained?"

The Automobile Association said it doubted whether wardens would have the necessary expertise to issue penalty fines. "They haven't really shown themselves to able to do parking [offences], so we have reservations over getting them to do moving offences," Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said.

The offences, to be detailed today in a Commons debate on the Traffic Management Bill, are not expected to incur penalty points on driving licences. The Bill's aim is to free police time by diverting much responsibility for traffic management to enforcement officers appointed by local authorities. About 550 police officers are expected to be able to switch to other duties as a result.

Alistair Darling, the Secretary of State for Transport, has championed anti-congestion plans as a blueprint for getting the busiest routes moving again. He has warned that without drastic action, Britain will be gridlocked in 20 years.

Other measures in the Bill include the creation of uniformed "jambuster patrols" which will take over responsibility for getting traffic moving after incidents or breakdowns. They will be able to set local speed limits, order diversions and tow away vehicles.

Utility companies that fail to repair roads properly will face fines of up to £5,000. They will also be subject to stricter controls on whether and when they can dig up busy routes.

The recent increase in the number of speed cameras meant that more than two million people received £60 fines and three penalty points for speeding last year. The Government conceded last week that there could be a case for ending automatic endorsements for most offences.