The Government’s traffic fines regulator has issued a damning verdict of the inadequacy of warning signs at a road junction where 4,500 penalty notices have been issued in just six months.
Warning signs at the Edinburgh Road exit on the Scotch Estate, Jarrow, have been condemned as being too small and easily missed.
Adjudicators have now overturned a £60 infringement fine imposed on an 80-year-old grandmother who drove into a restricted bus lane before realising her error, and reversing out.
The decision by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal contradicts highways bosses at South Tyneside Council, who insist the signage complies with Department for Transport regulations.
In his decision, adjudicator Edward Solomons said that, although the driver - who does not wish to be named - lived locally and was aware of restrictions, she was entitled to be reminded to save her driving on auto-pilot into the bus lane.
He also said he had contacted the council for confirmation of the size of the markings, but had received no reply and had to rely on photographic evidence.
In a letter confirming his decision, Mr Solomons added: “It is for the council to satisfy me that the signs used are adequate to inform road users of the restrictions. In the absence of the requested information I must make a judgement on viewing the photographs.
“These appear to show to me small signs, easily missed if travelling at any speed.
“The council has not satisfied me that the signage is adequate and so the appeal is allowed.”
The woman drove her car into the bus lane on August 17, a manoeuvre caught on CCTV.
That was just weeks after the restrictions were imposed.
She twice appealed to the council, which rejected her bids.
The Traffic Penalty Tribunal considers appeals against penalty charge notices issued by councils.
She said: “This is a victory for the small people. I would have fought it to my last breath, I really felt I had been unfairly penalised.
“The adjudicator states that the signs are too small and easily missed. The council needs to listen to people and change these signs so they are easier to see.
A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council, which c ould earn around £270,000 in fines, said: “Each appeal is considered on its own merits.
“Since the restrictions were introduced in Edinburgh Road last summer eight appeals to the Traffic Penalty Tribunal have ruled in the council’s favour, including when signage has been a factor.
“It is regrettable that, due to resource issues, we were unable to respond to the requests for further information about signage on this particular occasion.
“While we note the adjudicator’s decision in this case, we understand this decision was based on the incorrect assumption that the speed limit on Edinburgh Road is 40mph. The speed limit is 20mph.
“We will be contacting the adjudication panel regarding their information gathering processes.”