As drivers, we come across both buses and bus lanes on almost every journey we make, but the law revolving when we can and can’t drive through bus lanes is a topic many of us are less familiar with.
Recent studies show that nearly 4,000 drivers every day receive a fine for driving in a bus lane, but this isn’t necessarily because people deliberately break the law, but because we are not sure about the rules.
We spoke to Andy Sterne, who teaches in driving lessons Essex about a recent operation put in place by the council in his local area.
“I read an article late last year about a reinforcement Essex County Council put in place to keep track of how many drivers used bus lanes in restricted hours and the statistics really shocked me. In the space of just 25 days of installing CCTV cameras surrounding bus lanes, the council managed to catch 5,000 motorists breaking the law which made them at least £300,000 in less than a month. This really proves how important it is to make yourself aware of the rules!”
If this is a topic you, like many others, are unsure about, we are going to discuss and answer the question, can you drive in a bus lane?
When Can You Drive In A Bus Lane?
You will be able to tell when you are approaching a bus stop as there will be white dashed lines which then turn into a solid white line, the solid white line is where the bus will stop. Always look out for signposts at the bus stop, this will tell you if you are permitted to drive through the bus stop and if so, at which times in the day.
If there is a white sign, which simply says ‘Bus Stop’, it means it is just advising you that there is a bus stop at that point, there are no legal rules, you can drive here.
Blue signs will involve symbols of the vehicles that are allowed in the zone, the timings that the bus stop is in operation and days of the week. Each sign will have a different time and days printed on, so always try to slow down enough when approaching to see the times clearly.
For example, if the signs Mon-Fri, 7-10am it means you are not able to drive in the bus lane on weekdays between 7 am and 10 am.
Some bus signs have two times on them, which means that you only drive outside of the times stated.
If there are no times or dates on the blue sign, it means it is always in operation, at no time can you drive on these bus lanes.
One Way Roads
If you are driving on a one-way road, in most areas, the bus lane is on the right-hand side. If this is the case, these lanes are in operation 24 hours a day.
Why Would You Need To Drive In A Bus Lane?
In some cases, you are able to drive in a bus lane during its operating hours, the only exceptions are:
- To allow emergency services such as an ambulance through
- If roadworks are blocking your side of the road
- If the bus lane is next to a junction and you need to turn left to turn, however, you can be fined for changing into a bus lane too early
It has become more and more common for councils to fit CCTV around a bus stop and bus lane area, this is their main way to fine drivers. They use the cameras to take footage of all passersby and then pause and take a photo of any cars they notice disobeying the laws. If you are caught driving in a bus lane on camera, you will be given a PCN which is a Penalty Charge Notice; this will be a fine of £90. You have 28 days to pay; if you pay your fine within 14 days of receiving it, it is reduced by 50% meaning you will only have to pay £45. If you fail to pay within the 28 days, your fine will increase to £135.
If you believe that you have been unfairly or wrongly fined, you do have the option to appeal. On your Penalty Charge Notice, it will state exactly where the event happened, so go back and check whether it has all of the correct signs. If any of the following are missing, you have the right to appeal:
- ‘Bus Lane’ painted onto the tarmac
- The lane is separated by a white dashed line followed by a solid white line
- A signpost with the days and hours of operation
Tips For When Driving On Or Around A Bus Lane
- Always give way to a bus which is pulling off from a bus stop unless they are in their own single lane
- Look out for pedestrians leaving the bus when passing; they might be in a blind spot
- If the bus lane is out of its operating hours, moving into a bus lane will allow others to overtake you
- Failing to use a bus lane when you could have done on your driving test may result in a minor, or worst case major
- Only overtake a bus stopped at a bus lane if you can see a lot of passengers waiting to get on or off and you have enough time to drive the full length of the bus without causing disruptions
Hopefully, our article has made things a little clear about when you are permitted and not permitted to drive in a bus lane. Always keep a lookout for signs when approaching a bus lane and make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Many drivers panic when they are faced with having to deal with buses, but as long as you stay calm and remember the basics, there will be no issues.