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Tips & advice

Box junctions: what are the rules and the penalties for breaking them?

It’s easy to fall foul of box junction rules: here’s how they work and how to avoid being fined

Box junction

Any mention of a box junction is normally met with a shudder by the average driver: they have a reputation among road users as methods of penny-pinching by cash-strapped authorities that are more interested in collecting fines than keeping roads safe.

This isn’t helped by the fact that box junctions aren’t that common, so unless you encounter them on a regular basis you might not know how to drive through them correctly. Being fined for an honest mistake can feel grossly unfair.

On the other hand, road planners will tell you that box junctions are a crucial tool for keeping busy roads moving at peak times, and that the penalties imposed on rule-breakers are there to deter drivers from selfishly blocking the road and adding to the traffic problems.

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Irrespective of which view you take, understanding how box junctions work - they’re detailed in the Highway Code, after all - is very important indeed.

Box junctions: what are they?

A box junction is outlined by a perimeter containing intersecting yellow lines in a grid pattern. They are designed to prevent gridlock by keeping junctions in high-congestion areas clear, even at peak times.

They’re most commonly used at crossroads, T-junctions and occasionally roundabouts, and they’re often controlled by traffic lights. However they aren’t usually signposted, so you’ll need to pay careful attention to the road surface when you approach.

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Box junctions can also be used outside fire and ambulance stations so that the emergency services always have clear access to the roads outside.

How do you use a box junction?

You can only enter a box junction when your exit road is clear: it really is that simple. Whether you need to turn left, right or drive straight on, if you’re prevented from doing so by traffic up ahead, you need to wait until there’s space for you to clear the box entirely without stopping.

The only exception to this rule is if you’re turning right and you’re prevented from taking your exit road by either oncoming traffic or by another vehicle that’s also waiting to turn right: in these instances, you are allowed to stop and wait in a box junction.

At box junctions controlled by lights, the rules still apply. So if the light goes green and there’s no space up ahead, you still need to wait.

Box junction penalties

In 2022, local authorities were permitted to apply for increased powers to more easily fine drivers for “moving traffic offences” - including those in yellow box junctions. Councils usually police their box junctions with cameras, with transgressors automatically hit with a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). In most places the fine could be as much as £70, although in London - where box junctions are most common - the penalty stands at £130.

However, if paid within 14 days the fine is halved to £65. You won’t get any penalty points on your driving licence for incurring a PCN, however many times you’re caught out.

If you think a PCN has been issued incorrectly, you can usually appeal in writing or online.

Have you ever been unfairly fined for entering a box junction? Let us know in the comments...

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