Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re running late for a lunch meeting, so you grab a spot where a car has just pulled out. Other cars are parked there, so why not? Then when you return, you discover you’ve got a ticket — or worse, your car has been towed. Welcome to a parking trap. When that happens, you have two choices: Pay the fine or fight. Fighting will involve documenting the area including the signs. Often, no matter how “right” you think you are, the city will look at your evidence and say, “The sign indicates no parking.” Case closed.
Usually, they are right, and what you think is a clear indication of an available parking spot isn’t one. It’s tough to fight city hall — especially when millions of dollars are on the line. Even a tiny burg like Washington D.C. can raise $92.6 million in revenue from parking tickets. The best way for you to avoid those tickets is not to fall into the parking trap. Here’s what you need to look out for.
Follow the Arrows
Arrows on parking signs can be confusing. Just where do they begin and end? The standard holds that a parking sign arrow regulates the space between where the arrow is pointing up to the next parking sign or the end of the block. That sets the boundaries, but what about a sign that has an arrow pointing one way saying “No parking,” and another way saying, “Parking available?” Go with the “no.” That should be the final say.
Don’t Rely on Other Parkers
What about a sign that says “No parking,” but it’s one of those weird ones with a lot of exceptions during the day and with permits? Plus, there are all kinds of cars parked on the street. That doesn’t make it right, and those cars might just be on the verge of a tow or ticket. Unless you can convince those other people to pay for your parking ticket, embrace the “no.”
Avoid the Hydrants
We all know we’re not supposed to park next to a fire hydrant. Some cities have helped the matter by painting a red curb in the “hydrant zone.” You might not be so lucky. Hydrants without marked curbs should be avoided all together. Your alternative is to park the requisite fifteen feet away, take a photo proving you parked fifteen feet away and hold onto that as evidence. There are also incidents of hydrants being hidden behind shrubs or bushes. They still count, and you could still get a ticket. It is best to avoid the hydrant zone all together.
Always Pay the Meter
Parking meters are going electronic. The reasoning is that you might not have a quarter, but you’ll always have an ATM card. That’s true, but that doesn’t mean you always use that card. Even if you think you’re just going to be “five minutes,” pay the meter. The $1.50 you’re saving could come back to haunt you with an $80 parking ticket.
Watch The Clock
If you’re going to be leaving your car for a significate amount of time, there are several things you need to do. First, make sure any electronics, including phone chargers, are not visible. Next, make sure your windows are rolled up and your car is locked. And third, make sure you’re clear about all the parking rules. Some areas are perfectly ok to park in, except for the 2nd Thursday of each month when the street is cleaned. It’s helpful to mark on the calendar which days you need to move your car if you’re leaving it in one spot for an extended period of time.
Beware the Reserved Parking Spot
Reserved parking spots are like fire hydrants: You should avoid them at all costs. These usually pop up in office building parking structures. Even if you’re there after work hours, if the spot says, “reserved,” keep driving. The same can be said for parking spots at apartment complexes or businesses. Tow companies with contracts will prowl the area just waiting for someone to park where they shouldn’t. A business owner can see you park in their lot and go across the street. Even if you meant to come back to their business, they could still call in the tow. In that scenario, it is better to ask for permission than to think nobody is looking. Someone is always looking!
All of this sounds like you’ll never be able to park anywhere again. On some streets, that might be true. You might be better off finding a parking lot that lets you stay for the day or take the bus. No traps there!