Parking tickets – what is the truth?

On 10 May, the Belfast Telegraph carried a story, based on a recent Assembly Question, that 59% of all challenged Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs – parking tickets) were being overturned. Commenters made the inference that 59% of all tickets could therefore be issued incorrectly.

I saw the story, and I remembered that DRD routinely accept challenges made on the basis that the driver had a valid Pay and Display ticket or a valid Blue (Disabled) Badge. So I asked a few questions of the Roads Service about the reasons the ticket appeals (or Challenges) succeeded.

I asked the questions on 24 June 2012 (taking my time, I know), and I got the response today (in fairness, they had to ask me for additional information on 6 July) – it makes interesting reading.

In 2011, 125,983 tickets were issued. Of that number, 16,497 (13%) were challenged, and of that number, 9,657 (59%) were successful. That is the raw data which caused all of the controversy.

Looking more closely, 4,602 challenges presenting a valid Pay and Display ticket and 3,909 challenges presenting a valid Blue Badge were accepted. So 88% of all successful challenges were because the Traffic Attendant could not see whether or not the car owner had parked legally, and that highlights that if a ticket falls off the window or dashboard or the driver honestly forgets to display his blue badge, DRD will withdraw the PCN.

Remember that if the Traffic Attendants can’t see the front of a ticket, they can’t see if it has expired, and if they can’t see the correct side of the Blue Badge, they can’t verify its validity. How can they tell the difference between two motorists whose tickets have fallen over, one of whom has an hour left on the ticket and one whose ticket expired an hour ago? The only choice for the sake of the honest motorist is to issue the ticket to both, and the honest motorist won’t have to pay it.

In another 638 cases (7%), the DRD accepted that exceptional mitigating circumstances applied. This left 508 cases (5.2% of accepted challenges) where the Traffic Attendant was objectively wrong to issue the ticket in any circumstance.

Of the 6840 unsuccessful challenges, only 323 went to tribunal, where 77 (24%) were successful.

Hold on to that figure of 508 cases, and let’s assume for the sake of argument that all 77 successful tribunal adjudications were because the Traffic Attendant was objectively wrong to issue the ticket, rather than the motorist demonstrating mitigating circumstances.

Of those 16,497 tickets challenged, a maximum of 585 tickets were proven to have been issued incorrectly, or 3.5%.

Very different from the headline of 59% incorrect tickets.