Traffic Orders and Signing

D1 obscured-20-sign-ckNMAG believes that the law is a two-way street; motorists should not be liable to prosecution (or fixed penalties) unless the highway authority has fully complied with its unavoidable legal duties first.

The Regulations (The Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure)(England and Wales) Regulations 1996) governing the imposition of speed (and other) restrictions, requires authorities to sign (by statutory traffic sign) before an order comes into force and, for the life of that order, maintain those signs.

Further Regulations (The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Direction 2002) set out in exhaustive detail the design, size, placing, height, lighting, materials etc to be used for any given sign.

The law is pedantic and clear on the minimum signing requirements. Courts have sometimes used the de minimis principle to excuse small failures to comply, but regulation 12 of TSRGD explicitly states what variations are allowable. How could it be possible for a court to then allow any greater variations?

Section 85(4) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 says that a motorist cannot be convicted of speeding if the proper signs are not in place. We believe that this means that fully compliant signs must be in place, though the courts have allowed some give on this arguing that the signs must give ‘adequate information'. How can this be when there remains no escape from the statutory requirement to sign in compliance with the Regulations and to the minimum standards set by the Secretary of State for Transport in his/her Directions? In fact, in the first Government publication relating to signing, highway authorities are clearly told that:

The use on Public highways of non-prescribed signs which have not been authorised by, or on behalf of, the Secretary of State, is illegal and Authorities who so use unauthorised signs act beyond their powers. Additionally, an unauthorised sign in the highway is an obstruction. The possible consequences of erecting or permitting the erection of obstructions may be severe…

Cocking a snook at the law

Highway authorities, the police and camera partnerships have stated that even though the law requires certain signs to be erected, they will not undertake these statutory duties as long as the courts continue to convict in the absence of the mandatory signs. One force publicly stated that whilst the signing was illegal and the Crown could not prosecute, it would never-the-less continue to enforce!

In Nottingham, speed limit signs that had by law to be removed in the early 1970′s remain in place. They are worn, faded and illegal. The law requires compliant signs to be present but, on the basis that the courts tend to convict in any case, the council and enforcement partnership refuse to comply with the law.

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