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NEW POWERS PLANNED FOR TRAFFIC WARDENS

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Traffic wardens will get sweeping new powers to fine motorists for driving offences under a Bill to be unveiled tod...
Traffic wardens will get sweeping new powers to fine motorists for driving offences under a Bill to be unveiled today, reported The Observer (p3).

Ministers will argue that thoughtless driving offences - such as disobeying 'no right turn' signs or driving into box junctions when their exit is blocked - is not only dangerous but causes traffic jams.

Under the Traffic Management Bill to be debated by MPs today, motorists will be trapped for such offences either by roadside cameras or on the witness statement of a new breed of 'civil enforcement officer'. The Bill makes it clear that this will include parking attendants. Automatic fines will be triggered.

'It's important that we protect the majority of road users from the minority who flout the law, but the police should be able to focus on tackling serious crime', said a spokesman for the Department of Transport. 'All we can say is that drivers can avoid penalties by obeying the law'.

Until now only the police have had powers to catch motorists for such offences, which the RAC says are rarely enforced except in London, where the powers now to be extended nationwide are being piloted.

The RAC warned that shifting police powers to civilians could hamper the war on more serious crime. Unlike police, wardens will not be allowed to stop drivers. 'Traffic police are effective in other areas of tackling crime, such as when you pull a car over for dangerous driving and do a check and it is a stolen car, or has stolen property in it', said RAC spokesman Edmund King. 'A civilian parking attendant would not be able to do that'.

Local authorities will be allowed to set fines, although transport secretary Alistair Darling will have powers to intervene over 'excessive' charges. The Bill also includes measures to fine utility companies who disrupt traffic by digging up roads, and imposes curbs on roadworks.

It will also create a network of 'traffic management officers' taking over routine tasks, freeing up to 500 traffic police for other duties.

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