Parking your car in the UK can be a little confusing at times at different cities have different signs and ways of doing things. But the law is the law, and they all follow it. So knowing the highway code is a must to parking your car safely and legally.
How to park your car safely and legally in the UK
- Do not park facing against the traffic flow
- Stop as close as you can to the side
What the Highway Code says about Parking in 2023
There are 14 rules to follow when parking correctly according to the Highway code,
- 238 – Waiting and Parking
- 239 to 247 – Parking
- 248 to 252 – Parking at Night
Below are the 14 Highway code rules, with details that I have sourced directly from The Highway Code UK website.
Highway Code Rule 238 – Waiting and Parking
238: You MUST NOT wait or park on yellow lines during the times of operation shown on nearby time plates (or zone entry signs if in a Controlled Parking Zone) – download ‘Traffic signs’ and ‘Road markings’. Double yellow lines indicate a prohibition of waiting at any time even if there are no upright signs. You MUST NOT wait or park, or stop to set down and pick up passengers, on school entrance markings when upright signs indicate a prohibition of stopping.
Law RTRA sects 5 & 8
Sourced direct from www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk
Highway Code Rules 239 to 247 – Parking
239: Use off-street parking areas, or bays marked out with white lines on the road as parking places, wherever possible. If you have to stop on the roadside
- do not park facing against the traffic flow
- stop as close as you can to the side
- do not stop too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge: remember, the occupant may need more room to get in or out
- you MUST switch off the engine, headlights and fog lights
- you MUST apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle
- you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic
- it is safer for your passengers (especially children) to get out of the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
- put all valuables out of sight and make sure your vehicle is secure
- lock your vehicle.
Before using a hand-held device to help you to park, you MUST make sure it is safe to do so. Then, you should move the vehicle into the parking space in the safest way, and by the shortest route possible.
When you use a hand-held device to help you to park, you MUST remain in control of the vehicle at all times. Do not use the hand-held device for anything else while you are using it to help you park, and do not put anyone in danger. Use the hand-held device according to the manufacturer’s instructions.Rule 239: Check before opening your door
240: You MUST NOT stop or park on
- the carriageway or the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency (see Rule 270)
- a pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines (see Rule 191)
- a clearway (download ‘Traffic signs’)
- taxi bays as indicated by upright signs and markings
- an Urban Clearway within its hours of operation, except to pick up or set down passengers
- a road marked with double white lines, even when a broken white line is on your side of the road, except to pick up or set down passengers, or to load or unload goods
- a tram or cycle lane during its period of operation
- a cycle track
- red lines, in the case of specially designated ‘red routes’, unless otherwise indicated by signs. Any vehicle may enter a bus lane to stop, load or unload where this is not prohibited (see Rule 140).
Laws MT(E&W)R regs 7 & 9, MT(S)R regs 6 & 8, ZPPPCRGD regs 18 & 20, RTRA sects 5, 6 & 8, TSRGD regs 10, 26 & 27, RTA 1988 sects 21(1) & 36
241: You MUST NOT park in parking spaces reserved for specific users, such as Blue Badge holders, residents or motorcycles, unless entitled to do so.
Laws CSDPA sect 21 & RTRA sects 5 & 8
242: You MUST NOT leave your vehicle or trailer in a dangerous position or where it causes any unnecessary obstruction of the road.
Laws RTA 1988, sect 22 & CUR reg 103
243: DO NOT stop or park
- near a school entrance
- anywhere you would prevent access for Emergency Services
- at or near a bus or tram stop or taxi rank
- on the approach to a level crossing/tramway crossing
- opposite or within 10 metres (32 feet) of a junction, except in an authorised parking space
- near the brow of a hill or hump bridge
- opposite a traffic island or (if this would cause an obstruction) another parked vehicle
- where you would force other traffic to enter a tram lane
- where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair users and powered mobility vehicles
- in front of an entrance to a property
- on a bend
- where you would obstruct cyclists’ use of cycle facilities except when forced to do so by stationary traffic.
244: You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it. Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.
Law GL(GP)A sect 15
245: Controlled Parking Zones. The zone entry signs indicate the times when the waiting restrictions within the zone are in force. Parking may be allowed in some places at other times. Otherwise parking will be within separately signed and marked bays.
246: Goods vehicles. Vehicles with a maximum laden weight of over 7.5 tonnes (including any trailer) MUST NOT be parked on a verge, pavement or any land situated between carriageways, without police permission. The only exception is when parking is essential for loading and unloading, in which case the vehicle MUST NOT be left unattended.
Law RTA 1988 sect 19
247: Loading and unloading. Do not load or unload where there are yellow markings on the kerb and upright signs advise restrictions are in place (see pages 115-116). This may be permitted where parking is otherwise restricted. On red routes, specially marked and signed bays indicate where and when loading and unloading are permitted.
Law RTRA sects 5 & 8
Sourced directly from www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk
Highway Code Rules 248 to 252 – Parking at Night
248: You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space. Laws CUR reg 101 & RVLR reg 24
249: All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph (48 km/h).
Law RVLR reg 24
250: Cars, goods vehicles not exceeding 1525 kg unladen weight, invalid carriages, motorcycles and pedal cycles may be parked without lights on a road (or lay-by) with a speed limit of 30 mph (48 km/h) or less if they are
- at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction, close to the kerb and facing in the direction of the traffic flow
- in a recognised parking place or lay-by.
Other vehicles and trailers, and all vehicles with projecting loads, MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights.
Laws RVLR reg 24 & CUR reg 82(7)
251: Parking in fog. It is especially dangerous to park on the road in fog. If it is unavoidable, leave your parking lights or sidelights on.
252: Parking on hills. If you park on a hill you should
- park close to the kerb and apply the handbrake firmly
- select a forward gear and turn your steering wheel away from the kerb when facing uphill
- select reverse gear and turn your steering wheel towards the kerb when facing downhill
- use ‘park’ if your car has an automatic gearbox.
Sourced direct from www.highwaycodeuk.co.uk
Where You Can and Can’t park According to the RAC
o you know the difference between double and single yellow lines? Can you ever park on zig zags? And when can you park in a permit area without a permit?
Finding a parking space can be hard enough, let alone worrying about all of the potential restrictions that come with it.
To avoid a parking nightmare, read our simple guide to where you can and can’t park.
General Parking (the basics)
Of course, the most obvious place to park would be in a designated parking bay, either in a car park or at the side of the road.
These will be marked by a large white ‘P’ on a blue background, usually alongside the parking area and on directional signage.
Some parking bays will be free, while others will need to be paid for and some might have restrictions for what type of vehicle can park there.
There may also be restrictions on time limits or exclusions for those without permits – it’s always worth checking the signs for more information before leaving your car.
Where Can and Can’t you Park?
Parking outside of a car park is sometimes the only resort, but can be a minefield if you don’t know the rules – here we look at where you can and can’t park and what time restrictions might apply.
Double yellow lines
A double yellow line – either painted on the road or on the kerb – means parking and waiting are not permitted at any time.
In some cases, there might be seasonal restrictions, which will be indicated by signs at the roadside.
Loading and unloading may be permitted, providing you can be seen doing so continuously – unless there are specific restrictions against it, indicated either by signage or yellow ‘kerb dashes’.
Blue Badge holders can park on single or double yellow lines for a maximum of three hours, providing there isn’t signage to say otherwise, it is safe to do so and it is not causing an obstruction for other drivers.
Parking on double yellow lines fine
A double yellow line parking fine is usually £70 and is reduced by 50% if paid within 14 days. This, however, may vary depending on the local authority.
Single yellow lines
A single yellow line – either painted on the road or on the kerb – means no waiting, parking, loading or unloading at the times shown on the accompanying sign.
The restrictions tend to be lifted during evenings and weekends, but check the sign before parking.
The same as on double yellow lines, Blue Badge holders can park on single lines for a maximum of three hours, providing there isn’t signage to say otherwise, it is safe to do so and it is not causing an obstruction for other drivers.
Red Route stopping controls
In some cases, red lines are used instead of yellow lines.
In London, the double and single red lines used on Red Routes indicate that stopping to park, load, unload, or board and alight from a vehicle is prohibited, except for licensed taxis and Blue Badge holders.
The times that the red line restrictions apply will be shown on nearby signs, but a double red line means no stopping at any time.
On some Red Routes, you may stop to park, load, or unload in specially marked boxes at times and for purposes specified by nearby signs.
For example, a Red Route might allow parking between the hours of 7 am and 7 pm, for one hour, with no return within two hours.
Note: red and yellow lines only provide a guide to the restrictions and drivers are advised to refer to signs for more information.
A red cross over a blue background is used to indicate a clearway, which means no stopping at any time – not even to pick up or set down passengers.
The sign is used to indicate a 24-hour clearway and might be incorporated into other signs with the words ‘No Stopping’.
There will be a sign at the start of the clearway, with a note about its length, i.e. ‘For 7 miles’. You won’t find special road markings on a clearway, but there should be smaller, repeater signs at one-mile intervals.
A loading bay will be marked by a dotted white line surrounding it, along with the words ‘Loading Only’ painted on the road.
These loading bays might be reserved for use by goods lorries or may be used by all vehicles, i.e. outside shops where heavy purchases have to be carried to a car. These bays should not be used before purchase, but only for the collection of pre-paid items.
Parking reserved for vehicles named
When parking is reserved for a specific type of vehicle or user, the bay will be marked by a dotted line and the name of the user painted on the road.
This might be a doctor, ambulance, disabled user or even a car club.
Increasingly, you may also find parking reserved for electric vehicles, which will be marked as ‘Electric Vehicles Only’ or a car and plug icon.
Yellow zig-zag lines
Yellow zig-zag lines outside schools, hospitals, or fire, police or ambulance stations indicate the length of road where stopping or waiting is strictly prohibited.
The Highway Code states that you should keep these areas clear of stationary vehicles, even if picking up or setting down children.
You may also find an upright sign, indicating a mandatory prohibition of stopping during the times shown.
White zig-zag lines
The approach to, and exit from, a pedestrian crossing is marked with white zig-zag lines.
Drivers must not park or overtake in this area, as parking would block the view for pedestrians and oncoming traffic.
In summary, you risk a fine and penalty points by parking on yellow or white zig-zag lines, but yellow zig-zags needs an accompanying sign to be legally enforceable.
White lines, on the other hand, are enforced by local authorities and the police, and they do not require a sign to be enforceable.
Parking outside someone’s house
It is perfectly legal to park outside someone’s house, unless the vehicle is blocking a driveway or a wheel is over a dropped kerb.
Other situations in which parking isn’t permitted include streets governed by residents’ parking permits or any of the restrictions outlined above, i.e. double yellow lines.
READ MORE: 11 of the most annoying driving habits
Parking on the Pavement
The Highway Code states that you must not park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do elsewhere unless signs permit it.
Parking on a pavement can obstruct and inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs, those with visual impairments, and people with prams and pushchairs.
The key here is ‘must not’ and ‘should not’.
In other words, offenders in London are committing a punishable offence and are liable to receive a parking ticket.
Elsewhere, drivers aren’t necessarily committing an offence, but it is an offence to drive on the pavement.
This means the law is a little fuzzy, as outlined by the Ask The Police website. It says: “Despite the obvious inference that a parked vehicle has been driven on the pavement prior to being parked there, witnesses to the driving will probably be needed to secure a prosecution – this can be problematic.”
If parking on the pavement is permitted, it will be marked by a blue and white sign.
If the car is wholly on the pavement, then vehicles may be parked entirely on the verge or footway.
If the car is half on the pavement, vehicles may be parked partially on the verge or footway.
For more information read our guide: Parking on the pavement – the defintive answer
Parking on the road – what the Highway Code says
The Highway Code isn’t the law, but many of its rules are in fact legal requirements under the Roads Traffic Act, which you can be prosecuted for contravening.
You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence, disqualified from driving, or even sent to prison.
Here’s what the Highway Code says for parking on the road:
- Do not park facing against the traffic flow
- Stop as close as possible to the roadside
- Do not park too close to a vehicle displaying a Blue Badge
- The engine, headlights and fog lights must be switched off
- The handbrake must be applied before leaving the car
- You must look out for other road users when you open your door
- Passengers should exit the vehicle on the side next to the kerb
- Valuables should be out of sight and the car locked
Parking lights must be used on a road or layby on a highway with a speed limit higher than 30mph.
Check your vehicle’s handbook to find out how to operate them: often, they are engaged by clicking the indicator stalk either left or right as you leave the car, but some models have dedicated parking light buttons.
The British Parking Association (BPA) outlines four different types of parking zones in the UK, namely:
- Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ)
- Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ)
- Permit Parking Area (PPA)
- Pedestrian Zones
Look out for zones described differently, for example, ‘Meter Zone’, ‘Restricted Zone’ or ‘Pay & Display Zone’.
As a broader point, look out for seasonal variations, where restrictions might be lifted at certain times of the year.
This is especially true in tourist areas, where parking restrictions might not be in operation during the winter months.
Busy shopping areas can sometimes lift restrictions around Christmas and on Sundays: it pays to check.
MORE ADVICE: Motorway cameras – which ones can catch you out
18 Places you Cannot Park
In addition to the points above, The Highway Code tells us you must not stop or park in the following locations, except when forced to do so by stationary traffic:
- Near a school entrance (see specific section above)
- Anywhere that would prevent access for emergency vehicles
- On a bus or tram stop, or a taxi rank
- On the approach to a level crossing
- Opposite or within 32 feet of a junction, except in an authorised parking bay
- Near the brow of a hill or humpback bridge
- Opposite a traffic island or another parked vehicle (if it causes an obstruction)
- Where you would force another vehicle to enter a tram lane
- Where the kerb has been lowered to help wheelchair and mobility vehicle users
- In front of an entrance to a property
- On a bend
- Where you would obstruct a cycle lane
- A tram or cycle lane during its period of operation
- A cycle track
- A pedestrian crossing, including the area marked by the zig-zag lines
- On the carriageway or the hard shoulder of a motorway (except in an emergency)
- Taxi bays (as directed by the upright signs and road markings)
- A road marked with central double white lines, even if a broken white line is on your side of the road, except for dropping off, picking up, loading or unloading
The Penalties for Illegal Parking
The Traffic Management Act 2004 allows local authorities to control parking enforcement on yellow lines, resident parking, public car parks and on-street parking.
A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) might be issued and enforced through the civil justice system, rather than the criminal justice system.
A fine may be either £70 or £50, depending on the impact of the offence.
For example, parking on a double yellow line will be at the higher rate of £70, whereas if a pay and display ticket has expired, the lower rate of £50 will apply.
Payment received within 14 days gets a discount of 50%.
Drivers who persistently ignore PCNs risk having their vehicle clamped and towed away, at which point the charges go up.
If you receive a parking ticket for parking on private land – read our Parking Charge Notice guide.
Sourced directly from rac.co.uk