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Last Updated: Monday, 16 February, 2004, 15:50 GMT
'Shocking' rise in disabled parking abuse
Geoff Adams-Spink
BBC News Online disability affairs reporter

Photo of disabled space in supermarket car park
Right by the store entrance - a temptation for many drivers
More than one in five disabled parking bays in supermarket car parks is being used by a non-disabled driver, according to a survey.

Campaign group Baywatch monitored parking at more than 800 stores owned by the 'big four' supermarkets - Sainsbury's, Asda, Safeway and Tesco - last month.

The results show that almost 21% of disabled parking spaces were occupied by cars without a blue parking badge - which compares with 18.5% at the same time last year.

This is in spite of a concerted campaign to tackle to the problem by Baywatch which has the support of the big four.

"Disabled people are sick to death of not being able to park," said Ed Passant, chief executive of the Disabled Drivers' Motor Club.

"Despite all the efforts of the Baywatch campaign, there remains a fundamental problem at local level which needs to be tackled now."

It's difficult to force people to move
Ed Watson, Asda
The supermarkets say the problem is inconsiderate customers who refuse to be persuaded that their behaviour is causing problems for others.

Sainsbury said it ran a poster campaign in December which was supported by in-store announcements and stickers placed on the windscreens of persistent offenders.

"It's a constant problem," admitted Ed Watson of Asda

Asda poster telling non disabled drivers who park in disabled bays they're either lazy or rude
Asda is trying to shame people into showing more consideration
The company is keen to stress its commitment to its disabled shoppers and says it operates a disabled mystery shopper scheme throughout its stores every three months.

"It's difficult to force people to move, but we do have people patrolling our car parks at the busiest times of day," said Mr Watson.

"We have run poster campaigns and we're experimenting with a device called 'space hog' - essentially a box that people drive over which triggers a recorded announcement asking whether they really need to use a disabled bay."

Parking at supermarkets is not a luxury - it's a basic necessity
Douglas Campbell, Disabled Drivers' Association
But Baywatch found that in more than one third of stores, disabled people were unable to park in a designated space because of abuse by non-badge holders.

And they say the supermarkets are performing less well when rogue parking is brought to their notice: only 30% of disabled customers said stores responded well to complaints, compared with 32% last year.

Photo Douglas Campbell
Campbell wants supermarkets to take firmer action
"There are some individual stores out there doing really well, but there are many seriously failing to meet the needs of disabled customers," said Douglas Campbell, Director of the Disabled Drivers' Association

"Parking at supermarkets is not a luxury; it's a basic necessity to maintain independence."

Tesco has gone a step further than persuasion - reasoning that if drivers are willing to ignore a polite request they are less likely to enjoy paying a hefty fine.

In a trial at one of its Leicester sites, drivers are fined £40 if they don't display a disabled parking badge, rising to £60 if they fail to pay within a week.

We hope in a year's time things will be different
Steve Gracey, Tesco
Safeway says it is "continually looking at ways to improve parking conditions and systems for our disabled customers".

In a statement, the company said:

"With the implementation of the Disability Discrimination Act later this year we will be reviewing the allocation of disabled parking spaces in our stores and the means of managing these spaces to comply with this act."

Competition time

As a way of improving the situation, Baywatch is now running a competition in association with the big four.

Disabled customers have until mid-March to nominate their favourite store when it comes to disabled parking, customer relations as well as their worst parking experience.

"We hope in a year's time things will be different," said Tesco spokesman Steve Gracey.

Your comments

As a GP I find frequently that Blue Badges are used by those for whom they were not intended
Shahid, London, UK

I have nothing against the disabled using Blue Badges appropriately and find it reprehensible that people block these spaces. However as a GP I find frequently that Blue Badges are used by those for whom they were not intended (at least by me), especially perfectly able bodied relatives, those trying to dodge the congestion zone etc. That is equally reprehensible.
Shahid, London, UK

As person with a disability the results of this survey is not surprising. These bays are essential for people like myself, able bodied people do not seem to care about the problems thay cause by using these bays.
Andrew Flavelle, Northern Ireland

I was surprised to find English fines so low
Sarah D, Tyler, Texas, United States

I was surprised to find English fines so low. At the university where I taught in South Carolina, the fine for illegally parking in a disabled space was $500. The vehicle might also be towed at the owner's expense. This policy did seem to drive the point home.
Sarah D, Tyler, Texas, United States

Most stores think that providing designated spaces is good enough. As a blue badge holder I am always complaining to security guards in stores who just don't want to know because it might upset someone. If people are thick skinned enough to park in a disabled space then they will take no notice of anything apart from a fine or a clamp. On complaining to drivers parking in disabled spaces who do not display blue badges, I have been threatened, abused and called racist.
Roger Chainey, Bristol UK

Delivery vans and repair vehicles are among the worst offenders
Ann Sykes, Newport, South Wales

It's high time something was done. Delivery vans and repair vehicles are among the worst offenders in Newport city centre. Often we cannot park in disabled bays because of them. And where there are fines, such as in Cwmbran car parks, the fine is only a measly £20.00. Make the fines really mean something. We often feel like saying to people - have my space and the disability that goes with it. I once saw an episode of HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN in which the angel, seeing a car belonging to an able bodied person parked in a disabled bay, waved his hand and the car turned upside down in the space. How often have I wished I could do that.
Ann Sykes, Newport, South Wales

I completely agree. Maybe if all the disabled bays were left free for disabled people they would no longer deem it necessery to park on double yellow lines, 3 feet from the curb, in rush hour traffic.
Steve Taylor, Northampton, UK

People without disabled stickers get so browned off. Because there are so many people abusing the system. Iżve seen drivers with disabled stickers parking their cars in the best places then running to the shop at Olympic speeds to avoid the rain.
Bernard Carney, Rochdale

I think that clamping with a release fee should be instigated by all the stores on vehicles which do not display a blue badge
Lis Spiro, Shoreham, West Sussex

I think that clamping with a release fee should be instigated by all the stores on vehicles which do not display a blue badge. Additionally, I feel very strongly that there are far too many child & parent bays & not enough disabled bays in supermaket car parks. Plus the child & parents bays are often near the entrance/exit to the stores & some of the disabled bays are a lot further away.
Lis Spiro, Shoreham, West Sussex

Hmm, while there's certainly a problem, there are inconsiderate drivers on both sides of the disabled badge. Around here, the local supermarkets have Parent & Child spaces which are often filled with vehicles who's owners aren't entitled to be there. Unfortunately, a substantial number of these owners have disabled badges, but find the Parent & Child spaces more convienient when the nearer disabled bays are in use.
Gwyn Evans, Lydney, UK

When I have challenged somebody for parking in a disabled space I have been met with abuse and the supermarkets will not intervene. I have also seen the disabled spaces most abused at my local hospital. I have seen hospital workers using the disabled spaces, without a blue badge.
Lisa Pesce, Praze-an-beeble,UK

It's all very well for those with disabled badges, who are genuine! I know some people who abuse the blue badge in their cars which are meant for disabled parents who are passengers. And what about the elderly who may not qualify for disabled badges...they may need to park close too and if it means that they have to park in a disabled bay, then so be it. Are you going to fine a pensioner who can't walk far, and who may not be able to get a blue badge?
T.H., UK

I find it sickening when I see perfectly fit drivers parking in or using disabled spaces as waiting areas
Jason Sheldon, Walsall, West Midlands

I'm am an able bodied driver, and find it sickening when I see perfectly fit drivers parking in or using disabled spaces as waiting areas. They should have 'spike strips' surrounding those bays that can be remotely activated in store and not retracted until a fine is paid. They'll think twice about parking there next time.
Jason Sheldon, Walsall, West Midlands

I am sadly not surprised to see that your country has the same inconsiderate jerks that we do. It infuriates me when I see people illegally parked in a space that I genuinely need, when they were simply too lazy to walk a couple of extra meters. Yes, I think it is right to fine them. And possibly to tow their car away as well!
Rachel, New Orleans, LA, USA

Fine everyone £50 for parking in a disabled bay without a badge on display. I'm sick of seeing fit, healthy people bounding out of their 4x4s in disabled bays. Supermarkets could pump all fines back into improving their disabled facilities, and these lazy arrogant people would simply have to walk an extra 50 yards every time they went shopping.
Neil C, East Kilbride, Scotland

The BBC's Nicola Carslaw
"Too often the bays reserved for disabled shoppers are taken up by people who aren't disabled"

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12 Feb 04  |  Nottinghamshire
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13 Jan 04  |  Mid
Space hoggers face fines
02 Oct 03  |  Leicestershire


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