Whether you’re stopping in for a morning coffee or making a pit stop during your quintessential cross-country road trip, coming back to parking fines on your windshield is a surefire way to ruin your mood. Who knew a little slip of paper could produce such a feeling of dread? 

If you’ve ever experienced the woes of parking fines, you’re probably wondering how to avoid them in the future. In this article, we’ll talk about some of the most common fines in the US as well as recent changes in parking law enforcement that you should be aware of. And, we’ll throw in some Spacer certified tips and tricks to avoid parking tickets completely, so that you can park without a worry. 

The basics of parking fines across the US

Even if you’re from the US, navigating the parking landscape can be tricky. There are a few different kinds of parking violations and every city or county has its own rules and fees. 

In general, most parking tickets are the result of a meter overstay, parking without a permit, or blocking of a driveway or fire hydrant. Parking fines are also issued for cars parked in bike lanes or alongside painted sections of the street reserved for short-term parking or no parking. And then there are the citations that you can get when you park in a street-cleaning zone.

And how likely is it for the average American to get a parking ticket? Well, that depends on where you are. Many drivers in rural towns and small cities will never know the dread of getting a parking ticket. But in major cities, they’re practically par for the course. 

Consider Los Angeles, for instance. Parking enforcement officers handed out over 1,070,000 parking tickets in 2019. On the other side of the country, 55% of all fines in New York in 2017 were parking-related, providing the city with an extra $545 million in revenue that year. Over a six-month time period last year, Washington DC residents were hit with 734,000 tickets. While in Chicago, activists are questioning whether the city’s $200 million in revenue from parking fines was justifiable. Houston has given out its fair share of parking tickets too: 578,000 over a two year period.

If you’re in a city where parking is competitive or confusing, the best thing that you can do is learn about the specific regulations in your area. Take a look at the list of parking fines on your local gov website and make sure to keep your eyes on the signs anytime you’re taking a walk around the neighborhood. Knowing your region-specific rules will help you find better parking options.

Some new developments in parking tickets

Now that we’ve got a good idea of what US parking fines look like today, how about some recent developments that may change things in the future? Some cities are thinking about creative solutions to parking fines that will lower their environmental impact and make the process more streamlined. 

One such proposed solution comes in the form of electronic parking tickets. It’s a relatively easy system to implement in private parking garages, where drivers could simply download a payment app. No paper tickets. No need for enforcement because a driver’s payment method would be automatically updated depending on how much time they parked.

But how could this apply to parking tickets managed by law enforcement?

In theory, electronic parking tickets could be issued using a city’s Department of Motor Vehicle registration data. With this system, the driver would receive an email, phone call or SMS message with the parking violation information. Then, they could pay the fine online or at their local DMV, DDS or relevant office.

At the moment, that’s not how things are being done. Many municipalities are switching to printed parking fines from the old hand-written version. They’re also relying more on digital data collection than the traditional chalk on the tire method. But using cloud-based technology to track and send out electronic parking tickets? That’s still largely a thing of the future.

Then, there’s the Barnacle. This large plastic yellow shield of a parking boot attaches through powerful suction to the windshield of the car in question. The idea is that the driver pays the fine through a user-friendly app, receives a code to unlock the barnacle, and then returns the device to a local drop-off point.

Perhaps this company’s biggest misstep was to market it first to universities like the University of Oklahoma. Before the device was even implemented for a trial run, the BBC reported that a flurry of problem-solving students were sharing creative ways to hack it or remove it online. They received so much backlash that the University decided not to move forward with the trial period.

So for now, it looks like we’re sticking with tradition. A parking enforcement officer identifies your car for being in violation, you receive a paper ticket (or boot if you have outstanding tickets), you pay, and you move on with your life. In the future, we’ll likely see more innovative parking fine technology. For now, it’s the tried-and-true method that we’ve had for years.

How you can avoid parking fines during your next outing

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could simply avoid parking fines altogether? If you’re exhausted from reading about parking tickets and trying to remember what the parking sign said and thinking about your parked car every few minutes while you’re out, there are a few things that you can do. 

One option is to forgo the driving completely. If your city offers public transportation or you can bike to where you want to go, you’ll never worry about getting a pricey parking ticket. Carpooling is another great way to reduce your carbon footprint and save yourself the hassle of parking.

When driving yourself is non-negotiable, you might consider looking for monthly parking options. If you’re fighting for a parking space outside of your work or university or favourite hangout neighborhood, booking a monthly parking space through Spacer will save you time and give you peace of mind. Plus, it’s affordable and can save you from an expensive parking ticket. In Las Vegas, you can find monthly parking for under $100. Monthly parking in Chicago tends to cost around $200. Even in hyper competitive parking cities like New York, you can find parking options for less than $300, which will save you from those astoundingly high NYC parking fines.

And for the times that you do rely on metered parking or regulated parking, make sure that you read all parking instructions fully. You might even take a picture of a parking sign so that you don’t second guess yourself when you’re in that restaurant and thinking “Did the sign say 90 minute parking or 60 minutes?” Taking a quick photo of the sign can also help you dispute any parking tickets later on, if you need to.

Parking fines are bummer, but we’re here to help

If you still have questions about the kinds of fines that you can get in the US, let us know! We’re pretty well-versed in all things parking, even the not-so-fun stuff like parking fines and parking tickets!