Why Do People Park in "No Parking" Zones?

No ParkingFire Lane What is the first thing you think as you see either of these signs?

Could the obvious answer be that you shouldn’t park anywhere near these signs?

If parking is forbidden near these signs, then why are there still people parked in fire lanes in front of grocery stores, department stores, and other places? Why are people still parking in no parking zones in neighborhoods and near schools?
In answering those two questions, I have to make a few assumptions. My first assumption will be that some people park in fire lanes and no parking zones because they feel if they stay with the vehicle, they are not technically parked. My second assumption is that some people feel that their errand is so quick it does not merit the trouble of “parking” in an appropriate spot. My third and final assumption is that some people don’t care how long they’re waiting in a no parking zone. Some feel they’re entitled to park wherever the heck they want.
Now keep in mind my argument is based on assumptions and is technically invalid. However, I do not want to take the time and research to go ask people parked in these zones what their deal is. For one, it could be dangerous, and two, I’m lazy. So if you can get over the fact that I’m basing an argument on assumptions, read on!
To rip apart my first assumption, I would have to look up the definition of parking. The word park as applied to vehicles has three uses with definitions from dictionary.com.

  1. park, n. A position in an automatic transmission that disengages the gears and sets the brake so the vehicle cannot move: put the car in park and turned off the engine.
  2. parked, v. tr. To put or leave (a vehicle) for a time in a certain location.
  3. parking, v. intr. To park a motor vehicle: pulled over and parked next to the curb.

The first definition of park states that the car is in the park position when the car’s gears are disengaged and the brakes are set. So when you put your car into the “Park” position, you are parked. So what if you just pull your car to the nearest curb and just hold the brakes down without putting your car into “Park”? Well, according to definition No. 2, that is parking as well. Besides, definition No. 3 also covers being pulled over and the actual state of being parked next to a curb.
So if my first assumption regarding people in no parking zones is true, then those people are simply in the wrong. They are technically parked, and are in illegal standing and should be towed, whether they are in the car or not!
Now onto my second assumption regarding people not thinking their errand merits the inconvenience of actually parking in an appropriate space. These are the people that stop suddenly in front of you to allow their family to unload in front of the store, or the people that leave their vehicles in no parking zones to run in for a small item. Let’s go back to definition No. 2. If you are parked, even for a short period of time, you are still parking. I would even consider unloading or loading material at no parking zones parking. How many times have you had to drive around a vehicle because they were letting someone out of their car or picking up their children? It’s extremely dangerous and rude.
My third assumption is that some people simply don’t care where they park, as long as there is an available space. I have encountered many times where a man was parked in a no parking zone reading a book, or doing something else besides driving. They were simply killing time. In fact, a long time ago, my wife and I ran across a lady in a parked vehicle (no parking zone) who stared my wife down and gave her a dirty look. Yeah, like we’re the idiots?

Related Story

In a related story, a judge ruled that a guy parked near the curb in a zone marked as “No Parking” and “Fire Lane” was not parked illegally. I do not agree with this ruling, and if a judge is not willing to enforce “No Parking” zones, then why should the police even bother?

9 thoughts on “Why Do People Park in "No Parking" Zones?

  1. cetroyer says:

    Probably the easiest answer to "Why do they do it?" is this: they have not experienced any penalty for parking in a "no park" zone. If the police started giving out tickets (not sure how that would work in front of a grocery store, public/private property considerations), people would start thinking twice about parking there.

    People must not think much. How much harder is it to park 6 feet over in a real parking spot, even though that makes them walk 6 feet further to the mailboxes (I'm remembering the last apartment complex I lived in). Are they that incredibly lazy or rushed to need that extra 1.5 seconds? Crazy people.

    cetroyer

  2. AgentK says:

    I'd posture that some drivers view many of these "warnings" and prohibitions as excessive and/or unnecessary. Further, in agreement with cetroyer, they don't associate infractions with consequences; e.g. because I parked here somebody will die in a fire, or I will be fined $100 WHEN I'm caught.

    The real question — are they equal opportunity violators of motor vehicle laws, i.e. do they obey all speed limits? do they wear their seatbelts? do they drink and drive? do they talk on their cell phones w/o hands free devices when disallowed?

    So maybe the issue of relative vs. absolute morality is at play here. Not until consequences and negative effects become real to the person do they consider modifying what appears to them to be innocent behavior. Its the thief who is stolen from and is saddened by the loss. Its the adulterer who is cheated on and experiences heartbreak. Its the man or woman whose home is burning down unimpeded because the fire truck can't park in the fire zone because my car is parked out front. Suddenly, its okay when you do it, but not when I do it. Relative for me, absolute for you. Sorta sounds like hypocrisy too, huh? Whatever the reason, the moral of the story is to not run with scissors. Ever.

  3. Kim says:

    I was on the internet searching for definitions of “NO PARKING” signs…I discovered your site and continued to read. I recently have been dealing with an issue of trying to get NO PARKING signs removed.(They were put up by a petition from the home owners on the street backing up to my childrens school) There is absolutely no good reason for them to be up along this street. I can see the first house length before the school parking lot so that the buses can turn in comfortably. the rest of the road on the school side is where 30 cars park/stop for 5-10 mins every morning for drop off and again at 3:05 for pick-up, the alternative (due to the fact we are NOT allowed in the turnabout in the school parking lot) is to park down in front of the school(LOWER parking) where there are 12-15 spots and 3-5 are usually flooded , the teachers are occupying 3/4 of these spots. The other side of the road is muddy swampy grass and due to congestion of an over abundance of traffic it is highly dangerous to exit the vehicle with our children on the road side.At the point I have my 3 children out of the car it is the beginning of a game of frogger to cross the road to the path leading up to the school. This is how it is when the 30 cars are on the UPPER road at the side of the school…they are now telling us we all must go down to the LOWER parking. I was wondering if a NO PARKING sign meant you could still stop for dropping off a child…which is a luxury I have this year since I have a grade 8 student who can walk my SK and grade 1 students..I will not have this next year she will be going to high school,I will need to park.SO to answer your question about why people ignore NO PARKING signs, could be safety issues with the alternative parking…could be lack of time…could just be the lack of knowledge of what a NO PARKING sign actually means(does it mean no stopping/standing)either way it is worth your time to get out and do some interviews you may find people have really good excuses…PS I have stopped in front of a grocery store(NO STOPPING!!!!!!!!!) to let out my 13 year old because I did not want her to have to dodge traffic, I pulled away 3 seconds later and waited aside in a parking spot and told her to wait on the curb for me to pick her up when I saw her…again for safety reasons.I always wear my seatbelt ,I am a curteous driver and obey speed limits as well as no passing zones etc.I have a 7 star rating /no accidents/tickets and I have numerous times stopped in a NO PARKING zone until the bylaw officer was there today!!!

    Take care

    Sincerely KIM

  4. Kim,

    You make a good point, but aren’t you endangering your child when you stop in a non-parking zone, force the car behind you to brake (or pass you) and risk getting into an accident?

    I can’t relate to school parking, but you described the situation well. At least there should be “no parking” signs for certain hours.

  5. Laura says:

    I actually have a situation involving the fire lane and a fender bender i got into the other day. The area i lived in had a winter weather advisory of freezing rain so the ground was icy and dangerous. I drove onto a residential street and was going slowly to account for the weather. A bit further down was a car parked on the right fire lane. Now as I drove down the street my tires suddenly slipped on the ice and I lost control of my car. Not being able to break or turn my wheel caused me to graze the other car along its right side/driver side. Now, would it be my fault that I crashed into them or would it be their fault since they were legally not supposed to be parked there for any reason. I have an understanding that perhaps they had just slipped like me but thats still no reason to keep your car there. Who do you think is to blame?

  6. Laura »

    Unfortunately in most states it is the car that hit the other from behind. It’s “failure to control speed”. My ex-wife was in an accident very similar, and she was at fault even though the car was clearly parked right next to a “no parking” sign.

  7. Stephanie says:

    I am curious about a couple of definitions. So, I actually did think that the car had to be in Park to be parked. Thank you for the clarification that it does not. I have a school drop-off situation similar to the one Kim describes. However, there is a neighborhood across from the school and the school has a crosswalk guard to help the kids cross from the neighborhood to the school. However, I learned today (unfortunately) that parking is not allowed in this neighborhood – not even pulling over to drop off and pick up your child. There is one No Parking sign on each side of the street. The one on the side of the street I pull over on is in front of a fire hydrant. I thought it was indicating no parking in front of the fire hydrant (which is of course illegal). But I was pulled over three houses down from that today, and an officer walked up and told me he was giving me a ticket for parking there. There are no red curbs. The sign does not say “no parking in this neighborhood” or “no parking on this street” or “no parking within X feet of this sign” or “no parking between sign”s (because there is only the one sign). There is no clear indication of where exactly parking is not allowed (other than in front of the fire hydrant). So what is the rule here? What kind of markings need to exist?

  8. In America, you CAN do whatever you want until you are caught red-handed. However, because we do not want a “Police State”, want low state, county & local taxes, we therefore do not have adequate funding to hire enough manpower to enforce the “written traffic laws”. Hence, when caught, ticketed, and arrive before the Judge, we’re too often given a “slap on wrist” and told don’t do it again. So its really a numbers game we’re dealing with in addition to pure individual laziness. Oh, did I mention that in driving is considered a “privilege” and not a “right”? Well why not make it a right? Times, they are a changing. So Government, keep up with the populace!!

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