How to avoid paying parking fines

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Returning to your car only to find you've been slapped with a parking is frustrating to say the least. Find out how you can avoid fines and when you just have to accept that you're in the wrong...

parking ticket

You’ll be very lucky, or very cautious, to get through life without getting a parking fine. For most new drivers they’re almost a rite of passage.

Whether it’s because we skip that section of the Highway Code or we learned it all too long ago to even remember, parking fines can put a dampener on the best of days.

Confusion over ‘nightmare’ regulations

Not many people know you can be fined up to £1,000 for parking on the road at night if you’re not facing the direction of the traffic – even though it’s perfectly legal during the day.

This is because the rear reflectors on the back of a car make it visible to oncoming drivers in the dark. The rule only applies when you’re not parked in a designated area, though remember you can still be stung if someone else parked the car and you could have moved it.

Keep the lights on

At night, you must always put your sidelights on when parked on the road or in a lay-by with a speed limit above 30mph.

Permanently out of bounds

You’d be surprised how many people are fined, and/or see their vehicle clamped or impounded, because they’ve parked in a strictly prohibited spot.

These include, but aren’t limited to

  • Near a school entrance
  • Anywhere preventing emergency services’ access
  • Lowered kerbs
  • On a bend or at a property entrance
  • At, or near, a bus/tram stop or taxi rank
  • The only exception is when you are forced to stop because of stationary traffic.

Double yellow line parking

Generally, you’re not allowed to park or wait on double yellow lines for any reason.

There are, however, a couple of exceptions to the double yellow line rules (although both of these only apply where there are no loading restrictions):

  1. Loading or unloading a van is allowed if it’s not possible to do this from a regular parking spot
  2. If you’re a blue badge holder and it’s clearly displayed, you can park on double yellows for up to three hours

When can you park on a single yellow line?

The rules for single yellow lines are slightly different to double yellows as you’re only prevented from parking or waiting there at certain times. There aren’t standard rules for single yellow lines but there will be signs nearby explaining when you can’t wait or park there.

Know the rules on pavement parking . . .

It’s not illegal to park on pavements but you must not block it for wheelchair-users, prams and other pedestrians who need to get by. Some residential areas have narrow pavements and roads because they pre-date cars, so choose where you park carefully. 

Although you won’t get fined under the current laws, your vehicle could be towed away if it’s causing an obstruction.

But the rules are different for Londoners. Under rule 244 of the Highway Code, it’s forbidden to park either ‘partially or entirely’ on the pavement in London unless signs state otherwise. The footway parking ban also includes:

  • Pavements
  • Grass verges
  • Alleys
  • Ramps to people’s driveways 

Break the law and you’ll be liable for a £70 fixed penalty charge. You can find out more on London Councils’ website.

From 2021, drivers will no longer be able to park on pavements in Scotland; the news came in October 2019 after more than a decade of campaigning to ban the practice.

In England and Wales, the fight to ban pavement parking is ongoing. Following a consultation that ended in November 2020, the Department for Transport (DfT) is currently considering three options - one being to extend the London ban so it applies across the country. 

How do I appeal a parking ticket?

There are different types of parking ticket that can be issued, and the type of ticket you get affects how you can appeal.

A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) or Excess Charge Notice (ECN) comes from a council, normally for parking or driving issues such as parking on double yellow lines, stopping in a box junction or not paying the London Congestion Charge.

Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) are issued by the police, councils or DVSA and come before a potential Magistrates’ Court hearing – so if you ignore the FPN, you could end up in court.
They come with a fine and, quite often, penalty points on your driving licence. They’re issued for parking problems and driving offences, such as speeding.
If you accept guilt, pay the fine or collect the points, you’ll avoid court, but if you challenge the ticket you’ll have to go to Magistrates’.

The final type of ticket, and one that causes a lot of confusion, is also abbreviated to PCN - Parking Charge Notices. These are issued by landowners or private parking companies if you’ve parked on private land or overstayed the maximum time in a supermarket car park, for example.

These Parking Charge Notices (Parking, not Penalty) do not come with the same legislative power as council-issued tickets, so you can dispute them.  The company that issued the ticket can take you to a small claims court if you refuse to pay. 

Appealing parking tickets

You may be able to appeal a ticket where:

  • You were parked correctly (eg you returned within the specified time limit)
  • Parking signs or road signs were hard to read/unclear
  • There was no meter or machine to pay at
  • You’ve been charged too much
  • You weren’t driving when the ticket was issued
  • You couldn’t get back to your car (eg if you’re disabled and find it difficult to walk, you’re pregnant)
  •  Your car broke down and you were waiting for it to be fixed or towed away
  • You were just out of time.

What should I include in my appeal?

Give as much evidence as possible in your appeal as it’ll give you a greater chance of being successful. You could include a valid pay and display ticket, photos showing there were no road markings to restrict parking or that signs were hard to see or difficult to understand.

A witness statement letter from someone who was with you explaining what happened or a repair note if your car broke down would also be useful. 

Other important information to include is:

  • The date the ticket was issued
  • Your address
  • Your vehicle registration number 
  • The Penalty Charge Notice number

What are the risks of appealing a parking fine?

There are some to think about, expense being one. Often you can pay half price if you cough up within 14 days of the ticket being issued.

Making an informal appeal by contacting whoever issued you with the parking ticket is free of charge, and even if you lose a PCN appeal, most councils will still let you pay just the discounted rate at this stage.

However, if you go on to make a formal appeal and lose you will definitely pay the full fine, so it might be worth going all the way and appealing to an independent adjudicator, at which point 56% of cases usually win.

You could end up in court if both appeals are rejected, the independent tribunal disagrees with your appeal and you then refuse to pay.

This could impact on your credit rating and will result in you having to pay court costs. 

Attitudes to parking fines

We surveyed 2,000 UK motorists about their experience of parking fines and attitudes towards parking. 60% told us they'd had a parking fine sometime in their life.

Graphic of coastal car parking fines

The most common cause was overstaying the time they had paid for (29%), although 19% said they received a ticket because the signage was unclear and 17% because they didn't realise they needed to pay for parking.

The average amount motorists told us they've paid in parking fines is £155. While more than half of drivers who received a ticket said they had submitted an appeal against it.

Coastal car parking fines

We also asked motorists if they'd illegally park if no parking spaces were available. Just under half (48%) said they would break the rules. 26% said they'd park on the kerb, while one in ten said they'd park in a private residential car park, and 7% admitted they'd park in an accessible parking space.

Chances of successfully appealing a parking ticket

The latest figures from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal (TPT), which looks at Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) issued in England (excluding London), show that in 2020/21 the number of PCNs successfully appealed was 38%, a further 26% were not contested by the local authority.

Where private tickets are concerned, according to figures from POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals), 45% of appeals resulted in overturned parking charges, while in just over 23% of cases the parking operator decided not to contest the appeal.

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