Kwik Fit | Sunday 17th November 2019 11:00am
Many motorists don’t give a second thought to specific parking laws when they successfully pull off a parallel park or reverse safely into a bay, simply applying common sense in an attempt to adhere to the rules of the road. However, there are many little-known laws that even the most experienced drivers fall foul of when finding a spot for their car.
With over 300 individual driving laws set out in the Highway Code, parking your car without breaking an obscure rule is in fact much more difficult that the average driver might think. For each driving regulation and by-law you knowingly follow when it comes to leaving your car parked up, there is a whole host of arcane and often vague laws that you have likely never heard of.
In this post, we take a look at six parking laws you probably don’t know about and give you all the information you need to avoid penalty parking fines, points on your licence or worse.
Distance from the kerb
It may sound like common sense to ensure you park your vehicle as close to the kerb as possible when parking on a street, but are you aware that there is a legally defined maximum gap allowed?
Enforced to simply prevent your car protruding too far into a road and creating a hazard for other road users, it is actually a legal requirement to park your vehicle no more than 50cm away from the pavement. If you break this law and leave your car parked more than 50cm away from the kerb, you could find yourself slapped with an on-the-spot parking fine.
It’s also important to remember that parking next to a dropped kerb could land you with a hefty fine. These gaps in the pavement are designed to allow vehicles to cross the pathway between the road and a driveway. They serve not only commercial and residential properties but also provide accessways for the emergency services. Naturally, it is therefore an offence to block them.
Asking a stranger
Incredibly, asking a stranger for spare change to use in a parking meter is actually illegal. Although you are very unlikely to be prosecuted for this offense today, according to Section 4 of the Vagrancy Act 1824, ‘going about as a gatherer or collector of alms’ can be lawfully applied to this scenario and can be punishable with a fine and up to three months in prison.
Knowing your road markings
Other than never parking on double yellows, many drivers would admit to not paying too much attention to the various painted road markings and lines that adorn the side of streets up and down the UK. However, when it comes to parking, knowing what some of the more obscure roadside markings indicate could save you from you an unwanted surprise fine.
For example, over the past few decades, cycle paths have become a common sight on UK roads. But do you know what the law is when it comes to parking in these areas? According to the Highway Code, a solid white line marking out a cycle lane indicates a mandatory area which motorists cannot either drive or park in. A broken white line is an advisory marking to make motorists aware they should not drive or park in this cycle lane unless absolutely necessary. Drivers who are caught parking in a cycle lane without a valid emergency reason may be given a £30 Fixed Penalty Notice. The same applies to parking on yellow zigzags located near major junctions, zebra crossings or in marked school areas.
Finally, on rural country highways where there is no side pavement, solid white lines that flank both sides of the road are there to warn motorists where the edge of the road is. These will usually be found on rural roads in which street lights are not in use. Deliberately stopping or parking on the sides of these roads is not permitted and could result in a penalty charge notice.
Parking your car overnight
While it may sound counterintuitive to leave any of your vehicle’s lights switched on when your car is parked up on the side of the road, there are in fact specific circumstances when you are legally required to do so. Although not enforced that often these days, the Highway Code dictates that sidelights should always be left on whenever your car is parked on a road or lay-by with a speed limit of more than 30mph. This law also applies if you are planning to park your car on the side of the road facing away from the direction of traffic flow or are less than 10 metres away from the nearest junction.
Marking your territory
If you live or work in a property that requires you to leave your vehicle parked on the street rather than a personal driveway, private car park or garage, it can be incredibly frustrating when you are unable to find a space. While it can often be tempting to use traffic cones, wheelie bins or signs to ‘reserve’ a parking space near your house or workspace, this can be seen as illegally causing a dangerous obstruction on the road and result in a Fixed Penalty Notice of £100.
It’s worth remembering that, frustrating as it can be, unless a car is blocking a driveway or its wheel is protruding over the dropped kerb in front of a home or workplace, no offence has been committed. Unless the street or road in question is governed by residents’ parking permits, any motorist can park legally on your street, providing they are not causing any obstructions and are complying with any additional restrictions.
Keeping it clean
While allowing your car to get dirty isn’t illegal, you could be breaking the law if a buildup of dirt and grime develops on a parked car to the extent that the vehicle’s number plate becomes unreadable. If your car is left parked on the side of the road for a prolonged period of time, particularly during the winter when road salt and grit mix with rain and can cake the backs of cars, this is something you certainly need to watch out for.
Motorists found to have a dirty, unreadable number plate on their car can face fines of up to £1,000, regardless of whether the car has remained parked while the dirt has accumulated or not. To avoid a potentially hefty fine, it is recommended that you wipe down your number plates regularly in order to ensure they stay legible, even when you are just leaving your car parked on the side of a road.
UK parking laws can be complicated, and there is unquestionably a lot to bear in mind, but keeping these obscure laws in mind and ensuring you are up to date with any changes to the Highway Code will not only make you a better driver, but also potentially save you a lot of money on wholly avoidable fines.
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