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Drivers’ blind spot for pavement parking puts people with sight loss in danger

03 Jul 2017

More than half of UK drivers park on the pavement but many don’t realise they could be putting people with sight loss and others in serious danger, according to a survey.

Research by YouGov for the charity Guide Dogs shows that 54% of UK drivers park on the pavement, with more than a quarter (29%) of those doing so a few times a month or more.

More than half (55%) of these drivers say they think about their impact on people with sight loss, whose lives are being endangered because they are forced to step out into oncoming traffic, but they park on the pavement anyway. This means certain streets in towns and cities have become no-go areas for blind people. 

Car On PavementGuide Dogs is asking the public to support its petition calling for the Government to make pavement parking illegal unless special exemptions are in place, and is today (Monday 3 July) hosting a parliamentary reception for MPs on the issue. 

Senior campaigns manager James White said: “Imagine you can’t see and yet you’re forced to step out into a busy road with traffic coming from different directions, just because a car is blocking the pavement. So many of our guide dog owners tell us how scared and uncomfortable that makes them feel. It must be terrifying.”

“We want the Government to make all pavement parking unlawful for the safety of people with sight loss and other vulnerable pedestrians, like wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs.”

The survey shows widespread confusion and a mixed attitude among drivers, with a fifth (20%) unsure whether it’s currently legal to park on the pavement in all parts of the UK, more than a third (36%) saying pavement parking is never acceptable, but a quarter (25%) saying they don’t think it constitutes dangerous driving.

Guide dog owner Sylvia Hawkes, 71, from Leiston near Ipswich, said: “I have a daily problem with pavement parking and I have to keep changing my routes around town, which is really stressful. I’ve also had cars drive up on the pavement right next to me to park, which is really scary because I don’t see them coming,

“When people are parked on the pavement I will very politely ask them to move, but sometimes they don’t like being asked and they refuse. I just don’t think many drivers understand the stress it causes someone who’s blind.”

Guide Dog owner and paraclimber John Churcher stars in Guide Dogs’ new campaign video, which shows him using his skills to scale cars parked on the pavement.

He said: “I’m used to climbing mountains, but pavement parking is an everyday obstacle that makes getting around really difficult because of the total unknown of stepping out into the road. It’s a worry people who are blind shouldn’t have to face.”

In London, pavement parking is unlawful, except in certain areas allowed by local councils. This is the model Guide Dogs wants to see adopted nationally. The Government committed to doing something about this in 2015 but little has been done.

Scottish drivers were the least likely to park on the pavement, with 63% saying they had never done so. In Northern Ireland, 32% of drivers parked on the pavement a few times a week or more often.

More drivers in the North West of England felt (33%) that pavement parking did not constitute dangerous driving compared with other regions. In the East of England, more drivers who parked on the pavement (65%)thought about the potential impact on people with sight loss, compared with elsewhere in the UK.

Of those that parked on the pavement, older drivers (aged 55+) were most likely to consider blind and partially sighted people (70%) compared with 27% of 18-24-year-old drivers.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2061 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between  1st - 2nd June 2017.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Sign Guide Dogs’ petition