Car parking rules have been in the news lately, after Asda fined a nine-months-pregnant woman for parking a the parent and child space. Asda has since apologised and cancelled the £70 fine. But what are the rules around parent and child parking spaces?
We talk to specialist motoring lawyer David Barton to find the dos and don’ts of these parking spaces.
Who can legally use a parent & child parking bay?
Use of a parking bay in a privately owned car park is a matter of contract law, created by the signs in the car park.
The terms on which certain bays can be used depend on the signage around the car park and how well they are placed.
Restricting the use of certain bays to parents with young children is OK as long as the signs are clear and set out that a charge will apply for misuse. Such bays are designed with extra room around the car and the spaces are there to offer those with small children the extra room they need to load both their offspring and shopping into the car. Heavily pregnant women need the space in just the same way.
So if bays are restricted and effectively reserved for parents with children, anyone else parking there risks a penalty charge notice for parking without permission and is in breach of contract. Car park owners are free to set out the terms on which bays can be used.
Can you use one if you are pregnant (with no other children)?
I imagine that supermarkets have not thought about this and signs simply refer to parents with children.
Spaces are designed for extra room and convenience, and there is at least an argument that a heavily pregnant mother is indeed accompanied by a child but not in the conventional sense. The answer ought to be a clear yes, and stores should either recognise it or change their signs to bring them into line with common sense.
Can mums use the space if their children aren't with them?
If certain bays are restricted to parents accompanied by children then the answer is no, they cannot, and to do so risks a penalty charge.
The whole point of the bays is the space around them and the convenience to the shop. So if you don’t have any children with you, you don’t need this.
What should you do if you see someone using the space without a child in the car?
It’s a matter of personal choice whether you make a report to the store - but there is no duty to do so and store staff are not usually employed by the car park company. You may find that nothing can be done.
Who enforces the parking fines?
Car park fines are enforced by whichever company is employed by the car park owner and there are many of them - and their full details should appear on the penalty charge notice. They enforce against the registered keeper and will obtain details from the DVLA. If the registered keeper was not driving, he or she has to say who was - or become liable.
They all operate in the same way and rely on signs to create a contract between themselves and the driver. The contract can stipulate how long you can park for free, and where you can and cannot park.
The law is not as straightforward as the car park companies will say it is.
David Barton is a specialist motoring lawyer. In the last 30 years as a motorists' solicitor, he has represented hundreds of clients in connection with all types of driving offences. David is based in Kent and represents clients around the UK.