High penalties anger drivers

TALKING POINT: Onewa Rd’s T3 lane is a hot spot for ticketing.
TALKING POINT: Onewa Rd’s T3 lane is a hot spot for ticketing.

Hefty penalties for misjudging 50 metres in transit lanes continue to anger North Shore motorists.

The North Shore Times asked Auckland Transport if a target or quota is set for those who issue transit lane fines but it went unanswered.

But the Auckland Council-controlled group says transit lane rules are controlled by the Government.

"Auckland Transport aims to be fair and if a member of public wishes to dispute an infringement they can request an impartial review through the infringement review department within Auckland Transport," spokesman Mark Hannan says.

Single-passenger vehicles using transit lanes to turn into driveways, businesses and other roads along Northcote's Onewa Rd and Mairangi Bay's Constellation Drive are being fined upwards of $150.

The common issues among those spoken to by the North Shore Times is calculating 50 metres, the distance at which vehicles can change into a transit lane to turn left, and the size of the fine.

Many say markings at major intersections to indicate when drivers can change lanes should be painted on.

Transit lanes are mainly for carpooling, where two to three people in a single car can bypass heavy traffic during peak times.

Buses and some types of trucks can also use them.

Reviews can also be applied for through the court system.

But doing so can be more costly as the Wymer family of Murrays Bay found out.

A fine they received increased by $80 after a review by a Justice of the Peace at Auckland District Court.

Cheryl Wymer was ticketed $150 for driving down the Constellation T2 lane on August 22 last year.

It was the first time she had used the lane, she says, labelling the system as blatant revenue-gathering.

Mrs Wymer says she was turning left into a petrol station.

She contested the fee, believing she had complied with the 50m rule. To make matters worse they received a debt collection letter for the fee.

Mrs Wymer pleaded guilty to using the T2 but questions how else would she have been able to turn into the petrol station. She thought some leniency may have been shown. In a February 5 ruling Mrs Wymer was ordered to pay $230 which included the original fine, $50 believed to be a court fine and $30 court costs.

Ron Wymer, her husband, says people are better off not contesting.

The New Zealand Automobile Association says the group never supported imposing a distance restriction. If a distance restriction is needed, motorists should be allowed to use transit lanes to travel one block before exiting the lane, the AA's Mark Stockdale says.

This rule is used overseas, such as in Australia.

"In the interest of safety" drivers should be able to use transit lanes at a time which is safe to do so, the AA's principal adviser for regulations says.

The association is supportive of 50m markings at intersections if possible, he says.

In comparison to other and, in the AA's opinion, much more severe traffic offences, transit lane fines are too high.

"We feel this type of offence should incur a lower fine."

Red light running can also incur a $150 fine and it is far worse to do this than use a transit lane, he says.

North Shore Times