Research suggests drivers are being denied priority parking spaces by "inconsiderate" motorists.

Inconsiderate drivers are preventing millions of motorists parking in designated priority spaces, according to new research. A study by car insurance firm Churchill estimates 7.8 million parents and two million Blue Badge holders have been blocked from parking in designated bays by motorists who didn’t qualify to park there.

The survey, which quizzed 2,000 British motorists, found 64 percent of parents had been prevented from using parent-and-child spaces by drivers without children in the past 12 months. More than three-quarters (77 percent) of disabled ‘Blue Badge’ holders, meanwhile, said they had been blocked from using disabled spaces by drivers without the telltale parking passes.

Assuming the respondents were representative of the British public as a whole, Churchill estimates that almost 10 million people have been prevented from parking in spaces they were entitled to use in the past year.

For parents caught out by this space-hogging, roughly half (an estimated 3.9 million) had to find a parking space further from their destination, while just over a quarter (an estimated two million) gave up on their journey and went home. For Blue Badge holders, however, the problem was much worse, with more than half (an estimated 1.1 million) forced to park further away and an estimated 700,000 (more than one in three) forced to turn around and go home.

These incidents are relatively evenly split between locations, with just under a quarter of space-hogging (24 percent) taking place in supermarkets or shops. Just over a fifth (21 percent) occur at a restaurant, while 20 percent of these incidents happen on the high street. Incredibly, hospital car parks play host to 18 percent of incidents.

Women paying for parking at pay and display car park in Arundel West Sussex UK

Despite the obvious issues that parking in a disabled or parent and child bay causes those who need them, a sizeable proportion of Brits think it is acceptable to park in these spaces. The research found a third (33 percent) of people think it is acceptable to park in a parent and child spot despite not having a young child with them at the time, while 23 percent believe parking in a disabled bay is fine even if they don’t have a Blue Badge.

A further 32 percent of motorists said they thought it acceptable to park in restricted parking areas, such as double yellow or crossed and zig-zag lines. That’s despite such offences carrying a fine and, the potential for penalty points.

Yellow lines on a tarmac road

“Finding a parking space can cause stress at the best of times, however this can be made a million times worse for parents with young children and Blue Badge holders if they are unable to park in an adequate space closer to their destination which has been specifically designed for them,” said Jane Morgan, marketing manager at Churchill. “We would urge motorists to think about the consequences of their actions if they choose to park in a space they don’t need. The last thing families with young children or people with disabilities need when visiting locations is to worry if they will be able to park.”

Disabled parking sign with parking and wheelchair symbols on brick wall