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Would you park in a disabled bay?

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Would you park in a disabled bay when you have no right? Motoring writer Maria McCarthy explains the complex laws surrounding disabled parking.

Disabled bay

Many people may feel that in some locations there are too many disabled parking spaces.

Based on this, I decided to do some research - and discovered that the rules and guidelines for disabled parking are complex and varied.

Blue Badge scheme

The Blue Badge scheme is for disabled motorists whose condition affects their ability to walk.

The guidelines relate to the percentage of spaces that should be reserved for disabled motorists and also their location, which ideally are as near to the facility as possible.

Local authorities have a legal obligation to provide on-street parking for Blue Badge holders.

But it can vary depending on the individual authority.

The recommended figure is around 5%, but it can vary depending on the individual authority.

Blue Badge holders are also permitted to park on single and double yellow lines in certain locations.

Equality Act

2010 Equality Act

However privately owned car parks, such as ones at supermarkets or workplaces, aren't under the same legal obligations though they do need to take into account the Equality Act 2010.

This states that service providers are required to take reasonable steps to ensure that disabled people can have access on a similar basis to non-disabled people.

This means that some disabled spaces should be provided, and any ticket machines should be accessible to wheelchair users.

Penalties for parking in a disabled bay

But what about able-bodied motorists who abuse these spaces? What penalties are they liable for?

"Parking in a disabled bay is an offence which results in a fixed penalty notice (FPN)," explains Ben Knowles, formally of the Local Government Association.

"FPNs are set at two levels, serious offences and lower offences and parking in a disabled bay counts as a serious offence.

"Outside London, the Department for Transport is responsible for enforcing Blue Badge spaces and offenders are issued with a FPN for £70, discounted to £35 if paid within 14 days.

"Within London the penalty is set by an organisation called London Councils and is up to £130, discounted if paid within 14 days."

Rules differ for private car parks

Disabled bay parking permit

It’s a different matter in private car parks.

"Off-street car parks such as ones at supermarkets or railway stations are private property," says Dave Smith, head of public affairs at the British Parking Association.

"The conditions of use are a contractual matter between owner and motorist.

"In these car parks spaces marked out for badge holders are not legally enforceable and rely on the consideration of other motorists.

"Car park operators could ask a non-disabled driver to move their car from a space set aside for disabled people but they might not be in a position to insist on it."

What about parent & child bays?

When it comes to parent and child parking, there are no legal requirements whatsoever.

Supermarkets and other private operators offer it to provide greater convenience for families who shop there.

It also reduces the risk of accidents for young children crossing busy car parks.

This means that although some supermarkets threaten penalty fares for inappropriate use of parent and child spaces, it would be difficult to enforce without taking the issue to court.

Another factor is that it's often not made clear when child status ceases, with some supermarkets setting them aside for under-fives and others for under-12s.

Getting the balance right

Scales of justice

Helen Dolphin of Disabled Motoring UK says: "In some places there can be too many disabled bays, in other places too few.

"In some places there can be too many disabled bays, in other places too few."

"For example, hospitals probably require more than 6% whereas some shopping centres may need less.

"And if you do have too many disabled bays, then some people will start pushing boundaries and the respect for them will start to break down.

"I think that individual car park operators should conduct surveys to find out how many bays they need and then police them properly."

A lesson from abroad

Maybe we could take a lesson from our French cousins, who accompany some disabled bays with a notice reading: "Vous prenez mon espace: prenez mon handicap."

This translates as: "If you take my space, take my disability too".

In Brazil, people take it a step further than the French.

Watch this embarrassed illegal parker come back to sticky notes - many many sticky notes while the crowd cheers on.

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