Parent parking rules at Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi, Lidl and Asda

Drivers across the UK are wrongly taking advantage of parent and child parking spaces, leaving mums and dads battling to find spaces with young children in tow.

That’s according to an investigation by Confused.com, which saw one in four parent and child parking spaces across the UK being misused. Researchers monitored dedicated spaces in supermarkets to find how many people take advantage of the extra space bays.

New research found that more than two thirds (68%) of UK drivers have seen a parent and child parking space being used by someone without a child with them. Meanwhile, nearly a third (29%) of drivers admit to wrongly using a dedicated parent and child parking space, be it a parent travelling without their kids (21%), or non-parents taking advantage of the extra-wide parking bay (8%).

Top reasons for misusing a parent and child parking space

  • “It was late at night and I didn’t think there would be any parents around” – 32%
  • “There were plenty of parent and child parking spaces available” – 31%
  • “I couldn’t find another space” – 29%
  • “I was only using the space for a few minutes” – 25%
  • “I wanted to park close to the store” – 21%
  • “I am or was travelling with a Blue Badge holder and there weren’t any dedicated spaces available” – 14%

Over the past few months, car parks have been less busy than usual, and it seems this has attracted people to take advantage of parent and child bays. In fact, more than one in eight (13%) culprits admit they’ve parked in one of these spaces during lockdown, with one in seven (14%) claiming they knew there was no one around to enforce the rules.

However, while people are knowingly misusing parent and child parking spaces, the research also highlighted a lot of confusion around the restriction of these bays. In fact, one in seven (14%) drivers find the rules around parent and child parking confusing, while nearly one in 10 (8%) drivers are unsure about the rules in their local supermarket. To clear up this confusion, Confused.com has compiled the guidelines for some of the top UK supermarkets so people can be confident they’re adhering to the rules.

The misuse and confusion about parent and child parking bays are having a real impact on parents. More than a third (38%) of parents of children under the age of 12 have been forced to leave a car park because they couldn’t find a suitable parking space. But leaving isn’t always an option, and four in five (81%) parents have had to find a space elsewhere.

Not being able to use a space has forced parents into some difficult positions. More than half (54%) of parents have struggled to get their child out of the car due to the lack of space, while nearly one in four (24%) had to carry their child across the car park because of the traffic. More than a fifth (22%) even saw a car speeding which put their child at risk. And at the time of this happening, nearly two thirds (61%) saw someone else misusing a parent and child parking space.

Nearly one in four (24%) are confused as to why car parks don’t fine drivers for taking advantage of parent and child parking spaces. While not all supermarkets or other car parks currently penalise offenders, more than a quarter (28%) of UK drivers would like to see fines enforced.

However, the issue doesn’t always lie with the culprits, as more than two in five (43%) drivers with young children don’t think the parent and child parking spaces in their local supermarket are adequate. But there are also some situations where other drivers may need these spaces, leaving fewer available for parents. In fact, two in five (42%) drivers think heavily pregnant women should be allowed to use parent and child parking bays, while one in three (31%) think that they should also be available for Blue Badge holders. While there’s no clear rule on whether these particular drivers will be penalised for using a parent and child parking space, Confused.com suggests drivers should check with the store to make sure they aren’t charged.

Alex Kindred, car insurance expert at Confused.com, says: “Taking the kids shopping is a battle without the added stress of trying to find somewhere suitable to park.

“The rules are very clear: if you aren’t travelling with a child, don’t use the parent and child parking spaces, unless you have a very valid reason to.

“However, our research has proven that there are still many drivers who are confused about the rules. We’ve spoken to some of the top supermarkets to understand their guidelines and outlined what people can expect if they are caught taking advantage in our guide to parent and child parking.

“If you see someone wrongly using a parent and child parking space, you can report it using the details in our guide.”

What are the rules around parent and child parking bays?

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

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

Confused.com asked supermarkets about this, Tesco was the only store to mention pregnant women:

“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:

Sainsbury’s

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

Asda

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.

Morrisons

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

Tesco

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

Aldi

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

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.

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