Thursday, 9 December 2010

Case Study: Parking Ticket Rescinded - Leaves (Or Snow) On The Sign

In one case where a parking ticket was appealed against because of leaves covering the road traffic sign indicating restricted parking, the appeal was allowed.

The appellant, issued with a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) for parking in a restricted area appealed on the ground that the signs had been obscured by foliage and therefore not visible.
The Adjudicator found that, while the sign in question was in good condition it was insufficiently visible during August (the time of the alleged contravention - when the trees were in full leaf) to alert the appellant, a visitor to the area, to the presence of a restriction. The appeal was allowed.

Drivers may do well to use this case for snow-covered signage if unlucky enough to receive a ticket.

Can other motorists use Bus Lanes during the bad weather?

Another issue causing confusion to drivers is whether they were permitted to drive in a bus lane so as to avoid hazardous ice and snow covered lanes. Is this legal or are drivers who do so risking prosecution?

The same laws apply whether you are driving on a clear day or in adverse weather conditions. In any circumstances bus lanes are solely for the use of buses or other vehicles that are listed on the road sign unless the signage is superseded by police/local authority temporary signage. Bus lane contraventions are normally enforced by camera. A Parking Charge Notice (PCN) is only payable if the council has a visual record of the contravention.

If a motorist receives a notice of intended prosecution for contravening signage and using a restricted bus lane, it is anticipated that leniency would prevail with regards to any appeals for such notices to be withdrawn.

Last winter and the current arctic conditions have involved some the worst weather conditions in the UK for decades. As a consequence the courts would have to adopt a common sense approach or thousands of motorists could be landed with unfair fines.

If you find yourself in receipt of a notice, fine or summons and you believe the extreme weather conditions should be taken into account, you may be fortunate and avoid a fine or penalty. However, in future, you should bear in mind that, if the law is applied by the letter, there may not be the leniency most laymen might expect.

Hopefully, the UK will not be visited by such extreme conditions for many years to come. Amongst pleas for better gritting plans to be implemented, I expect there to be much clearer guidance issued by the Police and Highways Agencies for the future.

If you need further advice or assistance with any motoring legal matter call us on freephone 08000 85 27 84. Our ‘phones are manned throughout the day, evenings and weekends - even on Christmas day and during all bank holidays.

Can snow suspend parking restrictions?

If you do receive a ticket for parking your car on a double yellow line but the lines weren’t visible due to snow then, unless there was clear signage or road markings to notify the motorist that there were restrictions in place, you should have a valid defence.

You may think that the snow would mean that parking wardens would stay at home. However, since 2008, notices have been capable of being issued from CCTV evidence which do not require human input in catching the offending drivers. In order to appeal against a ticket issued in such circumstances, photographic evidence that shows the hidden double yellow lines and lack of signage can help.

The difficulty you may face as a result of the parking laws introduced a couple of years ago is that it is lawful for the council to send a ticket to you several weeks after the alleged contravention making it impossible for you to gather the necessary evidence to appeal the ticket.

In the extreme weather conditions we have suffered this December, it would be a defence for a motorist to argue that snow made it impossible to see or adhere to parking restrictions. The difficulty you may face is being able to present specific and accurate evidence of these conditions if you don’t receive a ticket until after the alleged contravention.

You could refer to weather reports on the day and hope this would be sufficient but as the new parking regime is still relatively new, only time will tell if local authorities will pursue motorists when extreme weather conditions were in place.

Clear Windscreens

Clear visibility when driving is a legal requirement, yet many motorists have taken illogical risks, driving in the snow with reduced visibility.

The Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 (as amended) specify the minimum levels of light that must pass through the windscreen and front side windows of a vehicle.

The limits are:
  • Motor Vehicles first used before 1 April 1985: The windscreen and front side windows must allow at least 70% of light to be transmitted through them.
  • Motor Vehicles first used on or after 1 April 1985: The light transmitted through the windscreen must be at least 75%. The front side windows must allow at least 70% of light to be transmitted through them.
These rules are intended to police a driver’s preference for tinted windows but it is arguable they could be applied to a motorist who chooses to drive without ensuring ice and snow are sufficiently cleared from a windscreen.

A fixed penalty of £30 can be imposed as a minimum.

It is down to Police discretion as to how they deal with the offence. However, be warned that, whilst the offence of driving with reduced visibility is punishable by a fine only, the police could decide to report you for the more serious offence of careless or even dangerous driving if you drive around without waiting for your de-icer to take effect.

A motorist can be faced with a prosecution for careless driving punishable by between 3 to 9 penalty points and a hefty fine for simply failing to adhere to the Highway Code.