Disabled drivers call for change to parking legislation

January 30 2023, 10:40am

Disabled Parking Bay

DFI Member, the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI) has called on the Government to change existing legislation so gardaí and traffic wardens can impose fines on drivers who illegally park in accessible parking bays in private car parks.

The organisation has today launched its Bay Watch campaign, aimed at highlighting the ongoing abuse of disabled parking bays in general.

The campaign has a two-fold aim: 

  • The first is calling on the Government to change the existing legislation so that gardai and traffic wardens can now impose fines on those parking illegally in private accessible bays.
  • The second is to highlight the ongoing abuse of disabled parking bays in general and push for greater enforcement of existing regulations.

A nationally representative survey by Coyne Research, carried out in tandem with the DDAI’s own member research, underscored the lack of knowledge about the existing legislation around private carparks not only amongst the public but also amongst disabled drivers themselves.

Commenting on the campaign, Richard Ryder, Communications and Marketing Manager for DDAI, said. 'Our Bay Watch campaign has been launched to tackle the anomaly in the current legislation whereby those parking illegally in accessible bays in private carparks are allowed to get away with it. It should not be left solely to the private car park owners to manage the problem. Our research has shown that such a move has the backing of the public who also support the prosecution of illegal parkers, not just the handing out of fines.

'We are also urging the local authorities to be more proactive in enforcing existing regulations and crucially, verifying parking permits.  Almost 70% of our members said their disabled parking permit had never been inspected by either traffic wardens, the gardai or private car park operators and 96% of our members want more action in tackling disabled parking bay abuse.'

Response from Disability Campaigners

Commenting on the launch of the Bay Watch campaign, Sean O’Kelly a disabled driver and disability equality campaigner said, 'I am delighted to see such an initiative being brought out. As a wheelchair user and a driver, I often see cars parked in disabled spaces without a parking badge in shopping centre and private car parks. I hope that effective enforcement will be made in the near future. “

DDAI member Aisling Grouden from Dunshaughlin has a degree in Early Childhood Education and Care from TU Blanchardstown and is now a room leader at a local preschool. A wheelchair user, Aisling has been driving since she was 21 and she has always relied totally on her car to attend college, for her busy job, for grocery shopping and general independence. Safe and accessible parking bays are very important to Aisling, who said that she has experience of seeing cars parking in disabled parking bays that shouldn’t be there, not only in some of the larger shopping centre carparks but also outside smaller supermarkets.

Aisling said 'I never knew until now that traffic wardens and garden weren’t allowed to issue tickets in places like supermarkets, shopping centres and colleges and I am certainly not alone in wanting to see the law changed on this. I think it would make a huge difference to people’s willingness to chance parking  in accessible parking bays in these places without a permit, if they came out and found a €150 fine on their windscreen.

'I do remember a few situations where if there was someone parked in a bay without a permit, I would go in and report it to the shop. I'd rarely approach another driver on my own for safety reasons. One time I did go up to a woman myself and all she said was that she was still going to park there!'

Coyne Research Survey Highlights

A nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults aged 18+ was undertaken by Coyne Research on behalf of the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland (DDAI). It revealed the following:

  • Contrary to the existing position, 42% of those surveyed believed that a traffic warden or a garda can issue a parking fine to someone parked in a disabled parking bay on private party. 45% said they didn’t know.
  • 74% noticed disabled parking bays being abused by non-badge holding drivers on a regular or occasional basis.
  • 7 in 10 agreed that those who illegally park in disabled parking bays should face prosecution, not just fines.
  • Almost 4 in 5 people are aware that a parking permit is issued to an individual not a vehicle. This rises to over 9 in 10 amongst permit holders.
  • 7 in 10 are aware that the permit holder must be in the vehicle when the permit is being used and this rises to circa 9 in 10 amongst disabled parking permit holders.
  • When asked had they ever approached a driver parked in a disabled parking bay without a parking permit displayed, 82% said no and 16% said yes. Again, this rose significantly amongst disabled parking permit holders, with 58% saying they had done so.

DDAI Member Research

800 DDAI members from all over Ireland took part in the member survey.

  • Almost one third of the disabled drivers interviewed were unaware that traffic wardens and gardai were unable to issue fines to those parked in private carparks like supermarkets and hospitals and offices. 24% thought they had the powers to do so and 45% didn’t know.
  • Over 81% of members have noticed disabled parking bays being abused, higher than the national average.
  • 95% said that abusers of parking bays should face prosecution.
  • Almost half said that when they reported disabled parking abuse to supermarket or shopping centre staff, action was rarely or very rarely taken.
  • In finding space in private carparks, 64% said that hospitals were the most difficult to find disabled parking bays followed by 46% for other private carparks.
  • 81% said that local authorities and an Gardai Siochana needed to do more to tackle parking bay abuse. Almost 70% said their permit had never been inspected by either traffic wardens, the gardai or private car park operators.
  • 96% of members said they wanted traffic wardens and the Gardai to do more inspection of parking permits and parking bays.

The Disabled Drivers Association (DDAI) is Ireland’s leading charity for disabled drivers and passengers on a national level. It promotes independence and equal opportunity through mobility, education and training. For more see www.ddai.ie