More than one in four parent and child parking spaces in Milton Keynes are being misused by child-free drivers, new research has shown.
The inconsiderate parkers are, leaving mums and dads battling to find spaces with young children in tow.
An investigation by Confused.com monitored dedicated spaces in supermarkets and found 26% of bays were used by people without a child.
More than a third of the misusers admitted they parked there because they couldn't find another space, using the excuse that there were plenty of the parent child bays availlble at the time.
Many more said it was late at night so no children would be around, while others qualified the misuse by saying they were "only parking for a few minutes."
Further research found there’s confusion around the use of these parking bays, said a Confused.com spokesman.
Generally, you can use a parent and child parking bay if you have a child with you that’s under 12 or in a car seat or booster seat. The bays are wider to give parents more room to manoeuvre with car seats and buggies.
It’s unclear whether pregnant women can use these spaces as many signs specifically refer to parents with children.
It’s not illegal to park in a parent and child space without a child, but you could land a fine if you’re caught.
When Confused.com asked supermarkets to reveal their rules on parent and child parking bays, Tesco was the only store to mention pregnant women. And the rules varied widely.
Sainsbury's, for example, handles any misuse itself and makes sure fines are issued.
Asda and Tesco use external agencies which are also instructed to issue fines for parent child bay misuse,
Morrisons say offenders are "politely" asked to move, while Aldi say any customer noticing misuse is encouraged to report it to the store manager.
Lidl say they do not have the facilities to monitor the use of parent and child parking bays, and rely on the honesty of customers to park correctly.
A Confused.com spokesman said: "The misuse and confusion about parent and child parking bays is having a real impact on parents. Like disabled parking bays, parent and child parking spaces offer drivers with young children extra space and a spot closer to the store. This is to give them room to access car seats or buggies without the risk of smashing into the car next door, or to make crossing the road with young children that bit safer."
He added: "But despite this very valid reason for having dedicated parking, nearly a third (32%) of parents with a child under the age of 12 were forced to leave a car park because all of the dedicated parking spaces were taken. But when leaving isn’t an option, parents have no choice but to find a standard parking space. In fact, nearly two thirds (64%) noticed someone misusing a parent and child parking space, which led to them having to park elsewhere.
"What is clear is if you aren’t travelling with a child you shouldn’t be parking in the dedicated spaces and instead save these for the mums and dads out there who need the space".
Confused.com have released a video showing what a struggle mit is for parents with young children to park in a "normal" narrow space.