Original article from Kent Live
Across the country shoppers have been wrongly parking in parent and child spaces – risking a fine.
The large parking spaces are a handy tool for busy parents.
While having to balance shopping bags, pushchairs and screaming kids during the big shop – having a big parking space near the supermarket means you have one less thing to think about.
But an investigation by Confused.com found that one in four parent and child parking bays across the UK is being misused.
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It's a grey area but what does the law actually say about them?
Research from Confused.com has shown that seven in 10 (71 per cent) drivers have seen parent and child spaces being misused by drivers, either with much older children or no children at all, reports Gloucestershire Live.
One in 10 UK drivers (11 per cent) who don't have children under the age of 12 and weren't travelling with a child at the time have admitted to using a parent and child dedicated bay.
The big supermarkets are getting so fed up by these people that they're now threatening to fine people.
But what does the law actually say and where does someone stand if you spot someone in the space you're after?
Why do people get annoyed over parent and child spaces?
Contrary to belief, the parent and child spaces aren't just about being as close as possible to the store.
While is does undoubtedly help, it's actually all about space.
These spots allow people to be able to open their doors fully which is very useful when you have a newborn in a car seat and it's just as important if you have an older child who wriggles when you clip them in.
Car seat regulations have also changed meaning more children now have to stay in rear facing seats for longer. This will mean more people will need to use these spaces.
In non-parent and child spaces it can honestly be impossible to get a child into a seat safely.
What does the law say?
Unfortunately for parents, it's not illegal to park in a parent and child space without a child, but if someone is caught doing so, they could be slapped with a heavy fine.
What do the supermarkets say?
In some Tesco car parks, signs have appeared warning of a £70 fine for improper use of spaces and other supermarkets are starting to follow suit.
Generally, you're able to use a parent and child parking bay if you have a child with you that's under 12 unless any signage says otherwise.
It's unclear whether pregnant women can use these spaces as signs specifically refer to parents with children.
Confused.com have contacted all the big supermarkets to find out their individual rules on using these spaces:
Tesco: An external agency will issue a parking charge notice (PCN) to anyone wrongly parked.
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.
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.
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 restrictions. 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 again, or a sign is placed on their windscreen.
What about the fines?
Your fine will depend on if it's a Parking Charge Notice or a Penalty Charge Notice.
Penalty Charge Notices are issued by an official body like a council or police force. They have powers under law to enforce parking rules which include breaking the terms and conditions of parking in council-controlled car parks and council spaces.
Private companies issue Parking Charge Notices and have no legal powers.
These may look official but parking charge notices are more like invoices rather than fines. It's important to know however, that they are still enforceable under contractual law, but it's claimed that most private companies will not take drivers to court over these notices.
For more information non how to use parent and children parking bays – confused.com has a guide here.