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Guide to parking laws

A car park filled with vehicles

Do you know where you can park and when? Or what to do if you get a ticket, a wheel clamp, or your car towed away?

Key car insurance points

Parking fines will not have an impact on the price you pay for your car insurance.

While driving and criminal convictions can have a significant impact on the price you pay, insurers are not interested in civil issues such as towing charges and parking fines.

You might think of parking as being a relatively simple process - after all, it's just stopping your car and getting out.

But there are a number of common-sense points that are worth bearing in mind to ensure that you don't make an embarrassing, expensive or dangerous 'faux park'.

There's now clear legal precedent in the UK for ensuring that you park somewhere safely, after a lorry driver lost his appeal against a prison sentence and driving ban.

The driver had parked on a blind bend on the A68; a van crashed into the lorry, killing the van driver - the lorry driver was charged with causing death by careless driving, despite not being in the vehicle at the time.

This tragic case illustrates the importance of putting a bit of thought into where you leave your vehicle.Van

Further to this, motorists can be charged for 'causing serious injury by dangerous driving' if they park, for example, on the zig-zags by a zebra crossing, thus obscuring the crossing - the driver could be liable for injury to anyone who's run over on that zebra crossing, even if the victim is hit by another car.

On a lighter note, it's also good to know where and when you can leave your car in various roadside spots to avoid parking fines, because that sort of thing can really ruin your day.

So here are a few handy tips to bear in mind, to ensure that you don't end up leaving your car where you shouldn't.

Yellow lines

Parking on single yellow lines is only permitted outside the times specified on the adjacent signage.

If you've been clamped, there'll be details either left on your windscreen or on the clamp itself

For example, if you're on a street with single yellows and there's a little yellow sign affixed to a lamp-post that says '8am-6pm'.

They're the hours that parking restrictions are in force - you can only park there after 6pm and before 8am.

Many yellow lines operate only on certain days, too, in which case the sign will say something like '8am-6pm Mon-Fri'.

If you can't see any signs, it's probably best to assume that you can't park there. Better safe than sorry.

Double yellows: Don't park there. Just don't.

Red lines

Red lines… are largely the same as yellow lines. You can never park on double red lines. Single red lines are the same as single yellow lines.

If a box is marked out as a parking space on a red route, it can mean one of two things. If the box markings are white, you can park there within the times specified on the adjacent signs. If the box markings are red, you may only use the space for loading. Advanced driving courses


You'll find zig-zag lines outside schools and near pedestrian crossings. Some act like single yellow lines in that you can't park there within the specified hours.

However, parking on a zig-zag can be an offence at any time if you're seen to be causing an obstruction. Best to steer clear and find somewhere safer.

'No return within…'

A lot of parking restriction signs will say something like 'No return within 2 hours'. There will normally be a time above this statement as well; for example, if the sign says '1 hour - no return within 2 hours', that means that you're allowed to park there for no more than one hour, and mustn't park your car again in that same space for at least two hours after vacating.

Loading restrictions

You'll see these marked laterally on the kerb. Double and single yellow stripes act the same as yellow parking lines.

CPZ (controlled parking zones)

These are places where residents pay for permits to park on the street. You may find that you're able to park there as a non-resident, too, if there are pay-and-display meters.

It may be the nice thing to do to share out your parking tickets, but from a legal standpoint it's best to play the game and buy your own ticket

CPZ operate within certain hours, indicated by signage.

Outside of those hours, you're free to park there for free (in most cases - check the signs).

Paying at meters

Ticket machines will show you cost-per-hour, and which hours need to be paid for.

Outside of those hours there's no charge, unless it's forbidden to park there out-of-hours, in which case the machine will say so.

Traditionally these machines take cash, although some modern machines can accept card payments. Some also accept mobile payments, which operate in a number of different ways.

Lambeth Council's system, for example, runs from a mobile app. Other meters may have a phone number for you to call - just follow the instructions, the systems are automated.

Parking fines

If you park in the wrong place at the wrong time, you may return to find a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) on your windscreen. If you feel the PCN is unfair, you can write to the local council detailing the case and they'll consider your appeal.

If, however, you've been caught bang-to-rights, be sure to pay the fine promptly - they're generally halved if you pay within 14 days.

What if my car gets clamped or towed away?

This is a little less easy for you, as you can't just drive away and sort it out when you get home.

How to parallel park

If you've been clamped, there will be details either left on your windscreen or on the clamp itself telling you who to contact to pay for its release.

If your car has been towed (which is unnerving, as you might first assume that it's been stolen), you'll need to find out where it is.

Londoners can call Trace on 0845 206 8602; elsewhere, you can call the police non-emergency number, which is 101. There will then be a fee to pay for release once you've presented your documentation.

Illegal clamping/towing

It's illegal for your car to be clamped or towed on private land, but you CAN be legally clamped in car parks at airports and railway stations, ports and harbours.

When you talk to the clamper, ask to see their licence and take their details. You can check these with the Security Industry Authority (SIA) on 08702 430 100.

If you feel something's amiss, call the non-emergency police line (101) for help. Don't attempt to remove the clamp yourself. If your car has been towed and you're unsure if it's legitimate, again, call 101.

Giving your ticket to somebody else in a car park

Let's say, for example, you've paid for four hours' parking in a pay-and-display car park, but you've only been there for an hour and you're off home.

Parking tip

  • Bear in mind that if you leave a sat-nav cradle suckered to your screen, thieves may assume that your sat-nav is in the glovebox

You may want to give your ticket to somebody else who can then park in your space. This is a thorny issue.

One might argue that it's a nice thing to do for your fellow man, and that the space has been paid for for that given amount of time anyway, so nobody's losing.

But the car park operator won't see it that way - every customer in that car park must pay for their own parking, and that's that.

It may be the nice thing to do to share out your tickets, but from a legal standpoint it's best to play the game and buy your own ticket. You don't want to end up with a fine.

And finally

There are some key common-sense things to remember when you've found a suitable parking spot:

  • Lock your car
  • Remember to turn your lights off
  • Don't park too far away from the kerb
  • Don't leave anything of value on display (loose change, CDs etc)
  • Bear in mind that if you leave a sat-nav cradle suckered to your screen, thieves may assume that your sat-nav is in the glovebox
  • Make sure you don't park in an anti-social manner so that another car's trapped. That's really annoying…

For further information on parking, try this Which? report. Happy parking!

By Dan Bevis