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31 Jul 2019
Jamie Gibbs Alice Campion

Parent and child parking bay rules explained


Parent and child parking bays are designed to help motorists with young families. Have you ever misused a bay?

parent child parking bays

Tell us about your experiences using parent and child parking bays in the comments below!

Supermarkets have designed parent and child parking bays to be more convenient for motorists with young families. 

These bays have extra space so it’s easier to manoeuvre children in and out of the vehicle. They’re also much closer to the store so children don’t have to walk through a busy car park.

But the extra room and small distance from the store make these bays tempting for other motorists.

According to our research, nearly two in three parents have noticed someone misusing a parent and child parking space which led to them parking elsewhere.

This is a source of irritation for parents, so why are people misusing parent and child parking bays? 

Read more: Uncovered: The parent and child parking problem 


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The parent parking problem

We visited supermarkets across 10 regions in Britain to see how bad the parent and child parking problem is.

Arrivals and departures were monitored at one supermarket per region. Our researchers would take note of whether the driver left the car with or without a child.  

The results showed that one in four people misuse parent and child parking bays - with the highest amount of poor parking taking place in Morrisons. 

Regionally, our observations revealed that the highest amount of incorrect parking occurred in the North East, with 64% of people misusing the bays.

The lowest was in the South West, with only 5% of people parking incorrectly.

When asked, 31% of people told us they parked in these bays because they couldn’t find a space. Another 31% said that there were plenty of parent and child parking bays available.

Read more: Choosing and fitting a child car seat

child in a car seat

Why do parents need allocated parking bays?

Regular spaces simply don’t have enough room for manoeuvring children in and out of a car.

In fact, more than half of parents struggled to get their child out of the car because they didn’t have enough room in a regular parking space. 

Parent and child spaces are also located near to the supermarket entrance. When asked, one in four parents told us that after parking in a regular space they witnessed a car speeding past, putting their child at risk. 

Placing the parent and child parking bays closer to the store means young children don’t have to walk across a busy car park.

Read more: Parking rules and restrictions

What are the rules around parent and child parking bays?

Generally, you can use a parent and child parking bay if you have a child with you that’s under 12 or in a car seat or booster seat. This is unless any signage says otherwise.

It’s unclear whether pregnant women can use these spaces as signs specifically refer to parents with children.

When we asked supermarkets to tell us their rules on parent and child parking bays, Tesco was the only store to mention pregnant women.

It said: "It's up to the store whether they penalise a pregnant woman for using the parent and child parking bay." 

If you’re pregnant and feel you need the extra room, it’s worth asking the store whether you can park in these bays. 

It’s not illegal to park in a parent and child space without a child, but you could land a fine if you’re caught. 

The way supermarkets monitor parking varies between each store, but here’s a basic run down:


Parent and child parking bay misuse is handled by the store itself and fines would be issued by the car park operators.


An external agency monitors Asda’s car parks. Regular checks are conducted to enforce parking regulations. If someone has parked incorrectly they will be issued with a parking charge.


If someone is discovered parking incorrectly they are politely asked to move, or a sign is placed on their windscreen.

parent and child parking


An external agency will issue a parking charge notice (PCN) to anyone wrongly parked. 


If a customer has noticed someone misusing a parent and child bay they are encouraged to report it to the store manager. However, they are unable to enforce this as there are limited staff in store.


Lidl do not have the facilities to monitor the use of parent and child parking bays. They strongly rely on the honesty of customers to park correctly.

If you’ve noticed someone parking incorrectly in your local supermarket, you can use our tool to let the store know about it:


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