Traffic wardens - know your rights

Traffic wardens - know your rights
Traffic wardens can be seen as a real point of contention for many drivers, so it's best to know your rights when encountering one. 

There are a number of myths around what traffic wardens can and can't do and what comes under their remit, here we look at dispelling those myths and offer the facts around traffic wardens and your rights.

What actually is a traffic warden?

Traffic wardens, or civil enforcement officers (CEOs), to use their correct name, are employed by local councils and are responsible for ensuring that parking regulations are being followed and issuing penalty charge notices (PCNs, or fines) when required.

Although they have limited powers, they will often work closely with the police and report incidents such as anti-social behaviour, as well as any suspicious vehicles they come across.

If I drive away before a warden puts a ticket on my windscreen, is it valid?

Traffic wardens

If a council traffic warden has issued a PCN but not yet attached it to your vehicle, the council has the power to request the car’s registered details from the DVLA and can send you postal PCN.

They will already have your vehicle registration number so will be able to trace you through that.

MORE ADVICE: Speed cameras - tips and facts so you don't get caught out

Does a traffic warden have to observe my vehicle for a minimum period before giving me a ticket?

There is no strict requirement for traffic wardens to monitor a vehicle for any period of time before giving it a PCN.

While some contraventions are eligible for an instant fine (parking on zig-zag lines outside a school, for example), others (such as stopping on double yellow lines) may need an observation period of anything up to five minutes to prove that, for example, passengers weren’t alighting or goods weren’t being unloaded.

Find out more about where you can and can't park in our parking advice guide.

Is there a 'parking grace period' wardens have to honour?

Traffic wardens must give motorists a grace period of up to 10 minutes after their parking ticket expires. This applies to both council and private car parks.

Do traffic wardens have targets?

No. Local authority traffic wardens don’t have targets.

For private companies, however, it depends if the operator is a member of the British Parking Association or the Independent Parking Committee.

The British Parking Association code of practice states “Effective from 2 January 2018, the practice of offering financial incentives relating to the quantity of parking charge notices in new and existing employee contracts is prohibited.”

IPC registered operators are advised “You may use incentive schemes to motivate your staff and improve productivity. However, you may not use an incentive scheme which focusses solely on the volume of parking charges issued without introducing sufficient checks and balances so as to ensure that operatives do not issue Parking Charges where they should not”, which seemingly does not rule out such practices.

It is impossible to say whether parking enforcement firms, who monitor private car parks, that aren't a member of either of these two bodies, set targets or not.

I have a Blue Badge. Can a parking warden still fine me?

Traffic wardens

It’s true that Blue Badge holders can park where other motorists can’t, such as on single or double yellow lines, but that doesn’t mean they can park anywhere.

Common sense is required. Don’t leave your car if it causes an obstruction to other motorists, such as near a junction or on a busy road.

The maximum time a Blue Badge holder can park on single or double yellow lines is three hours.

Blue Badge holders will have to pay to park in private car parks, unless there are signs saying otherwise. Some public Blue Badge bays have their own time restrictions, but these should be signposted clearly.

A traffic warden has the power to ask a Blue Badge holder to move their car for whatever reason, even if the driver believes he or she is following all these rules.

DID YOU KNOW: You can be fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance, here’s how to avoid it 

Can a warden cancel a fine?

If you’re given a parking fine which you deem to be unfair, there’s not much point taking it up with an individual traffic warden.

They have little power to cancel a fine, and they won’t have any desire to do so. Instead, you’re within your rights to appeal it with the council.

If you plan to go down the appeal route, don’t pay the fine. Doing so is an admission of guilt and you’re unlikely to get the money back.

Contact the council as soon as possible (within 14 days) and outline why you feel the fine isn’t justified.

Use pictures of where the car was parked, along with any signs in the area to support your appeal.

I was parked on private land when I got a parking ticket. Can I ignore it?

The rules are different if you’re parked on private land (such as a supermarket car park).

Instead of a penalty charge notice, you’ll be given a parking charge notice (note the subtle difference!), which is essentially an invoice for breaching a contract.

The details of this contract will be signposted in the car park.

Companies often pay private firms that specialise in enforcing parking in car parks. If they are members of the British Parking Association or Independent Parking Committee, these firms can request your data from the DVLA and send you a PCN through the post.

If you refuse to cough up, the company will have to take you through the civil courts to force you to pay.

This is costly and time-consuming, so they may not pursue the claim. However, if they do, you could end up with a much larger fine that includes court costs. If you have broken the rules and been issued a PCN, it’s often easier (and cheaper) just to pay it than try to avoid it.

READ MORE: parking charge notices - how to avoid and appeal