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Is it illegal to drive through empty parking spaces?

It is advisable to not drive through empty car spaces in a car park that you're not familiar with. (image: James Marsden)

No, there are no laws concerning driving through empty car parking spaces, but always remember that a car park could have its own rules.

This is also an example where police could fine you for driving without care or attention, or in a manner either negligent or dangerously, but there is no statutory limitation on how to drive through car parks.

Part of the reason for this is that car parks, either open-air, multi-story, or underground, are generally regulated either by the private owner of the facility, the landowner, or the council (for public carparks).

If you take care to watch for pedestrians and proceed with caution, then there should be no issues with driving through empty car parking spaces.

This is why council rangers, instead of police personnel, issue fines in car parks.

If you take care to watch for pedestrians and proceed with caution, then there should be no issues with driving through empty car parking spaces. However, it is advisable to not drive through empty car spaces in a car park that you're not familiar with as there can be hidden hazards that could damage your car, or force you out of control and into a dangerous situation where people could be hurt, or property damaged.

These unforeseen hazards include speed humps, concrete kerbs or parking bay barriers, drains, or even split-level garden beds.

Striking any of these items at even walking pace could seriously damage your car, or send it out of control into parked cars or pedestrians. It is for this reason you should only cut through empty spaces if you can clearly see ahead of you as, even in a car park you're familiar with, these hazards might have been installed since you last visited.

Police are well within their powers to drive into car parks and stop you if you're driving outside the road rules.

Interestingly, there are no uniform rules from local councils about driving through empty car parks and, although police don't have the power to issue parking fines, they do have permission to enter the car park to fine you for breaking road rules like speeding, driving dangerously (ie: doing burnouts or drifting), racing, driving drunk, or driving unlicensed.

Police are well within their powers to drive into car parks and stop you if you're driving outside the road rules, so the old fable about them not being able to fine you 'on private property' needs to get a rest. If they see a crime being committed, they are duty bound to stop it and punish the perpetrators.

This article is not intended as legal advice. You should check with your local road authority to verify the information written here is suitable to your situation before driving in this manner.

​Do you cut corners in the car park? Tell us in the comments below.