Are you a parent and child parking space imposter? Shocking number of drivers abuse rules

Are you a parent and child parking space imposter? Shocking number of drivers abuse rules

  • Over a quarter use ‘parent and child’ bays when they have no kids with them
  • Two in five parents say they struggle find a vacant designated space as a result 

A staggering percentage of motorists have admitted to breaking one of the biggest car park rules there is in a shocking new poll.

Over a quarter (28 per cent) of drivers surveyed say they use ‘parent and child’ bays when they don’t have a kid in the car with them.

This then explains why nearly two fifths of parents struggle to find one of the spaces vacant when visiting busy car parks, such as those at supermarkets and shopping centres.

A new study carried out by insurer Churchill questioned 2,000 drivers and an additional 500 parents of children under 14 and 542 with children aged from zero to six about their parking habits and experiences.

Some 37 per cent of those with young children say they’ve been forced to park in standard sized parking bays due to all the designated spaces being taken up – and faced difficulty because standard parking spaces are too narrow to get infants in and out with ease.

How much bigger is a parent and child bay?

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Traditional parking space in a car park: 2.4 metres wide (4.8m long) 

Parent and child parking space: 3.4 metres wide (4.8m long) 

A standard-size parking bay (4.8 metres long and 2.4 metres wide) only leaves around 30cm to exit a car, which for those using car seats for newborn babies, which can be removed from the vehicle, is on average 17cm too small. 

‘Parent and child’ parking bays not only have the benefit of being located closer to building entrances, they offer an average of 120cm extra space between bays, which gives drivers a total of 150cm of room to park and get in and out of their vehicle safely.

Rules dictate that the designated bays are only for use by parents or guardians who are taking a child under 12 into the shop with them.

However, it seems a shocking number of motorists are willing to abuse the measures in place by parking in one without having a child with them at all. 

The report comes in the wake of news that five local councils are now enforcing length restrictions on motors that can use their public car parks.

Wokingham, South Hams, Broadland and South Norfolk, and West Devon all have in place a restriction of 5 metres, Autocar found in a recent investigation.

Cars including the Audi A8 and Kia’s electric EV9 SUV exceed this restriction and are therefore deemed ‘unparkable’, as is the latest Range Rover and both the Tesla Model S and Model X EVs.

Thurrock council imposes a slightly more lenient length restriction of 5.35 metres, which means owners of BMW’s 7 Series (5,319mm) and Land Rover’s Defender 130 (5,358mm) will be fined if they use these authority-ran car parks.

Height and weight restrictions are also in place in these and other council-operated car parks.

A parent and child bay is usually the same width as a conventional parking space (2.4 metres) but with an average of an extra 1.2 metres in additional space to allow for drivers to open doors for easy access to child car seats and booster seats

This follows various reports of Britain’s parking bay dimensions being out of date, with the 1970s regulations no longer suitable for the bigger vehicles sold in showrooms today. 

Of the 287 local authorities that responded to the car magazine’s freedom of information request this year, 91.8 per cent said they have no intention of increasing the size of their council-run car parking spaces to accommodate today’s much larger motors.

For parents of toddlers, using rear facing and/or rotating car seats, the space available in a standard car parking space is simply not sufficient to open the door to fully to assist lifting children safely in and out. 

Seven in ten (71 per cent) parents who drive say they have struggled to get their child into their car seat because there wasn’t enough space, with 44 per cent saying they were faced with the challenge on at least a monthly basis.

Alarmingly, one in four (23 per cent) parents with children aged 14 and under often have to let their kids get out of the car before they can park in a space due to a lack of room. 

One in five (18 per cent) parents of children aged under six have had to leave the car seat in the vehicle as they were unable to get it out, whilst a further 17 per cent said they have hurt themselves in the past whilst trying to remove a car seat in a car park.

How cars have got wider and longer 

Make/Model Length in 2018 Length today Increase
Peugeot 208 3,475mm 4,055mm 580mm
Toyota Yaris 3,495mm 3,940mm 445mm
Mazda 3 4,060mm 4,460mm 400mm
BMW 7 Series 5,098mm 5,391mm 293mm
Mercedes A-Class 4,299mm 4,419mm 120mm
BMW 2 Series 4,432mm 4,537mm 105mm
Peugeot 3008 4,447mm 4,542mm 95mm
Mercedes C-Class 4,686mm 4,751mm 65mm
Toyota Prius 4,540mm 4,599mm 59mm
Range Rover 4,999mm 5,052mm 53mm
Volkswagen Tiguan 4,486mm 4,539mm 53mm
Source: Autocar       

Scratches and dents from car park dings are costly

Motorists with kids being unable to use parent and child bays isn’t just inconvenient, it can be costly.

Being forced to park in tighter standard-size bays can often result in dings and scratches to both the driver’s and neighbouring vehicles. 

This damage is costing UK motorists an average of £223.50 to repair, the insurer calculated. 

Nearly one in ten (nine per cent) parents surveyed reported having damaged their own vehicle attempting to remove a car seat, with a further ten per cent admitting to damaging the vehicle next to them.

With cases rising as a result of the latest motors being bigger than ever, damage claims are yet another strain on the average cost of premiums for all drivers. 

Nicholas Mantel, Head of Churchill Motor Insurance, said: ‘Parents will be all-too familiar with having to drive countless loops of a car park to find an available parent and child bay, only to see that the already limited spaces have been taken by those without kids. 

‘The squeeze faced by parents as a result of widening cars and parking bays that haven’t been redesigned to accommodate today’s models particularly impacts those with newborn baby seats who need additional space to get babies out of their cars. 

‘Misusing parent and child bays not only inconveniences parents who genuinely need them, it can also result in a hefty Parking Charge Notice.’

How to quickly check the dimensions of your car 

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If you don’t want to go outside with a tape measure, there’s an easy way to find out the dimensions of your car.

Website Parkers has a car specs checker, which allows you to enter your number plate and it will provide all the specifications for your particular model.

This includes dimensions in section 3, which tells you the length, width (with the wing mirrors out) and height of your car in millimetres.

Rob Hull

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