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One in 3 parent and child parking bays misused, investigation reveals1

More than half (57%) of UK drivers have witnessed someone without children parking in a parent and child bay, with supermarkets the worst place for offences

Published on 22nd September 2022
  • Almost 1 in 10 (9%) UK motorists without a child under the age of 12 admit to misusing parent and child parking bays
  • Top reason for adults without children misusing parent and child parking bays is because they felt there were plenty of spaces available (36%)
  • Two in 5 (40%) parents have had to leave the car park in the past due to not being able to find a space
  • But can I park there? Parent and child parking rules explained, as 1 in 5 (20%) UK drivers are unsure if parents with older children can use the dedicated spaces

Parents and guardians across the UK are battling to find suitable parking as new data reveals 1 in 3 parent and child parking spaces are misused(1).

An investigation commissioned by Confused.com saw 34% of parent and child parking spaces observed in a spot-check experiment were taken by drivers without a child with them. Researchers monitored spaces in supermarkets across the UK to find a shocking number of people misusing these spaces specifically dedicated to parents with young children.

This isn’t the only evidence of this, as further research by Confused.com found that more than half (57%) of UK drivers have witnessed this behaviour in the past. And of those who’ve witnessed this reported supermarkets as being the most common location (93%) for the offence. Almost 1 in 10 (9%) drivers without children admitted using these spaces in the past, despite not having a child with them. However, the reasoning behind this shows that lack of awareness wasn’t the motivation, with many aware of the decision they were making.

According to the research, the top reasons drivers without children have knowingly misused a parent and child parking space were because:

  • There were plenty of parent/child spaces available (36%)
  • They couldn’t find another space (23%)
  • They were only using the space for a few minutes (23%)
  • They wanted to park close to the entrance (17%)

This behaviour has left parents in a sticky situation, with many struggling to find spaces or forced to leave the car park altogether. Parent and child parking bays are deliberately wider. This is to give parents enough space to manoeuvre young children out of the car, make way for swinging doors and avoid bumps from pushchairs or car seats. They’re also typically closer to the entrance so that parents aren’t trying to steer young children or prams through a busy car park.

However, having a lack of these spaces available in the past has certainly put parents out. In fact, over the past 12 months, parents with young children have had to find elsewhere to park in the car park 4 times, on average. Two in 5 (40%) also said they’ve had to leave the car park altogether in the past. But when they’ve been forced to use a smaller bay, parents have reported a number of struggles. More than 7 in 10 (71%) claim they struggled to get either their child carrier or pushchair out of the car due to the lack of space. Almost half (46%) also struggled to remove their child from the car from being too close to another car. And more than 1 in 3 (34%) found it difficult walking or carrying their child across the car park.

These struggles are certainly understandable for parents with young children. However, the research also found that there’s a clear confusion around where parents stand as their children grow older. In fact, 1 in 5 (20%) UK drivers are unsure of parents’ rights when it comes to older children. Although, this isn’t the only confusion, as more than 1 in 7 (15%) are unsure of eligibility> One in 10 (10%) are also unclear of the rules in their local supermarket. To clear this confusion, Confused.com has reached out to some of the UK’s top supermarkets to compile a catch-all guide to parent and child parking rules. This covers at which age it’s typically unacceptable for parents to use these bays, and where Blue Badge holders or pregnant women stand in terms of the rules. Although, according to Confused.com’s research, it’s not strictly illegal, and the rules vary depending on the car park provider.

However, drivers caught misusing parent and child parking bays may find themselves being penalised. Offenders could receive a parking charge notice (PCN), depending on where the offence has taken place. Some supermarkets or private parking companies may work with an external agency who issues these.

And many offenders may find themselves being confronted by the public. More than a quarter (27%) of those who’ve witnessed someone using and abusing parent and child parking spaces have had a word with the perpetrator. More than 2 in 5 (42%) have also reported the offender in question. And of those without children who’ve parked in these dedicated spaces in the past, almost 1 in 5 (20%) have been reprimanded in some way. Some have been prompted to move their car by a member of the public or a parking attendant, or have received a parking ticket.

But it isn’t just parents without children who’ve been guilty of misusing these spaces. More than 2 in 5 (44%) adults with children under the age of 12 admit to leaving their child in the car while using these spaces in the past. This, of course, defeats the object of parking there in the first place. More than 1 in 3 (36%) have also used these spaces despite not having their child with them at all.

And of those who don’t have children, research shows younger drivers are most likely to misuse these spaces. More than 1 in 6 (17%) drivers aged 18 to 24 claim to have used a parent and child parking space without a young child with them.

Without a firm law on preventing people from misusing parent and child parking spaces, it’s likely that drivers will try their luck until they find themselves being charged. Or at least this is the view of more than a third (35%) of the UK drivers surveyed. Although, more than 1 in 4 (26%) are baffled as to why people are using these spaces if they don’t have a child. This implies that people are aware of the importance of these spaces to parents and guardians. Perhaps clearer guidelines or firmer rules are needed to protect parents and their children in these situations.

Confused.com car insurance, Alex Kindred, comments: “Parent and child bays are available in many public car parks to make it easier for those travelling with young children. It’s worrying to see that so many drivers are trying their luck and taking up these spaces when they should be left available for those who need it.

While there’s no strict law on misusing parent and child bays, you could still be charged. This is an expense I’ve no doubt people would much rather avoid, especially with the current increase in living costs.

At the same time, there are some cases where parents may not know where they stand. For example if they have children who are no longer in a pushchair. Knowing that this can be confusing, we’ve reached out to some of the UK’s top supermarkets to get a better knowledge of their parent and child parking rules. This should help drivers understand if they’re within their right to use one of these spaces.

But as a rule, if you’re not travelling with a child or planning to take your child with you, you shouldn’t be using this space.”


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About Confused.com

Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.

Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.

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