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A parking violation is the act of parking a motor vehicle in a restricted place or for parking in an unauthorized manner. It is against the law virtually everywhere to park a vehicle in the middle of a highway or road; parking on one or both sides of a road, however, is commonly permitted. However, restrictions apply to such parking, and may result in an offense being committed. Such offenses are usually cited by a police officer or other government official in the form of a traffic ticket.
Parking violations include, but are not limited to:
Fines or parking citations may result if any of the above criteria are met.
In 1926, American merchants listed downtown traffic congestion as their most serious difficulty. Unenforced curbside parking and lack of off-street parking facilities were listed as the primary problems. Customers went where they could park.
During the Great Depression, city revenues dwindled. With parking meters, however, a new source of municipal revenue was found. Not only did the nickels paid in by parkers accumulate, but so did the fines imposed for over parking. By 1944, American cities were generating some $10 million annually from parking meters alone. Soon after came meter maids, who, because they were paid less than police officers, increased city revenues further. Complex parking rules, restrictions and regulations are now an integral part of modern life and landscape.
Typically, a ticket is placed on a vehicle when the owner or driver is not present. There is no place for a signature, and in California, the registered owner cannot be charged with a misdemeanor or other criminal offense for ignoring a ticket. A letter will usually be sent prior to any punitive action. Most jurisdictions, however, will have sanctions such as refusal to allow renewal of license plates if the owner of the vehicle has unpaid parking tickets. In some jurisdictions, such as New York City, a vehicle may be towed if it has overdue parking fines exceeding a specified balance and subjected to impounded vehicle auction if unredeemed. In many jurisdictions, such as Boston, vehicles with numerous outstanding parking citations are subject to booting.
In Europe, parking tickets are also heavily used. In Sweden, parking violations on street are considered traffic crimes with a fine. If the fine is not objected or paid within a specified time, the Swedish Enforcement Administration will claim money from bank accounts or other assets, relatively fast. The owner will be noted as a bad payer, and will not get a loan or a new rental apartment etc. for three years. A parking violation on a parking place (not on the street) is considered a break of contract which results in a penalty fee with different rules. According to statistics from Stockholm the cars with the highest number of parking violations (weighted for number of cars) are Jeep, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Lexus. Mercedes owners were the worst for parking in handicap spaces. Professor Gunnar Aronsson at the department for psychology at Stockholm university believes this is due to the owners being well-off and thinking that their time is more important. According to Jan Prestberg at the traffic office in Stockholm the fines are low enough to be ignored by richer people. It is often hard to find parking spots in big cities. After wheel-locks were introduced in London, the prices for rented parking spots went up considerably.
Foreign-registered vehicles in Europe in reality can not be fined. This is partly because it is too much work to find the owner in a foreign country, but mainly because it is not legally possible to claim money from a foreign resident person if they don't pay voluntarily. The European Union is introducing legislation into all member countries to collect fines across borders. In some cities, like London, this has been solved by locking one wheel of an unlawfully parked vehicle. The driver has to pay to be able to drive.
In New Zealand, parking fines are mostly issued by council parking officers, but can also be issued by police officers. Parking tickets are mostly attached to an unattended vehicle, or they can be posted to the address of the registered owner. Posting tickets are commonly used by parking officers when the person concerned appears to be hostile or aggressive, so minimal contact can take place for safety reasons. Usually, the most common parking fines issued are those for parking over the time limit.
Parking fines were introduced in the 1950s in New South Wales, Australia. At that time, council rangers only worked in council car parks and parking fines on the streets, mainly in Sydney were issued by the NSW Parking Police. These were employees of the New South Wales Police Force. Up until about 1995, these fines were issued and processed by the NSW Police and the fines were processed by the traffic penalties section of the police. This section was mostly staffed by clerical staff employed by the police, however they were not members of the police force. If fines were unpaid, the courts could decide on a penalty, and if then unpaid, a warrant would be made out and a person could spend time in jail to cover the amount of the fine. Now the system is different with the State Debt Recovery Office handling the fines.
Possibly the first parking restrictions were put in place in Nineveh, the capital of ancient Assyria in c.700 BC. The restrictions are due to their king Sennacherib (704 to 681 BC) and pertained to the sacred main processional way through Nineveh. The oldest parking signs ever discovered read "Royal Road – let no man decrease it". The penalty for parking a chariot on this road was death followed by impaling outside one's own home.