Ask LH: Is It Legal To Park On The Wrong Side Of The Street?

Ask LH: Is It Legal To Park On The Wrong Side Of The Street?

Hi Lifehacker, Is it legal to park a vehicle on the wrong side of the street? It’s customary to park your car so that its left side is closer to the kerb (since we drive on the left-hand side of the road), yet I see so many cars parked pointed the wrong way. I was once told that this was illegal since you have to drive on the wrong side of the road to park it, and then drive on the wrong side of the road again when you leave. Is that the case? Thanks, Nosey Parker

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Dear NP,

In all states and territories, drivers are required to park in the same direction as moving traffic when parked on the adjacent kerb (you can read an overview of NSW’s parallel parking rules here). This law exists for various reasons, ranging from the obstruction of your rear reflector lights at night to causing unnecessary confusion for other drivers.

As you note, it also indicates that the driver was driving on the wrong side of the road when they parked their car. Usually this is because they spotted a parking space on the opposite side of the road, or pulled out of a driveway in the wrong direction. Whatever the reason, it’s still illegal. The only exceptions we can think of are 45 degree parking spaces and areas with specific signage that grant permission.

If you park your car in this manner you’re liable to get a ticket from a parking inspector, or even the police if the positioning is deemed to be dangerous. That said, it’s pretty low down on the crime-busting stakes so people continue to do so without suffering any repercussions. If the situation bothers you and you think it could cause an accident, contact your local council and provide them with the relevant information: one fine is usually all it takes to make a driver follow the rules.


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  • Definitely illegal — both of my brothers did it, and not only did it p*ss me off (shared cars, was dangerous when I was pulling out into the street at times), but even though we were in a street that cops rarely visited (off the main roads), they got ticketed constantly because neighbours dobbed them in.

  • My Ex got a fine for this a couple of years ago, and her car was completely on the nature strip.

    • Depending on what you mean by “the nature strip,” that is also illegal. Unless otherwise indicated, the first 3 meters from the curb are considered to be a footway and should be kept clear so people in wheelchairs, parents pushing prams, the elderly or infirm with walking frames, and little Johnny on is trike, don’t have to move out onto the road or into someones front yard to get past you.

      I don’t know about Police, but most Council’s don’t go looking for this kind of offence. They usually only act on a complaint.

    • Unless there are No Parking signs, I’m guessing that would be acceptable — your car would be facing the same direction as traffic on both sides of the road.

    • Yes you can, as long as you leave an area through the middle wide enough for traffic to traverse.

  • Is it illegal to park, or drive on pavements? Is it illegal to park in your driveway so that the rear of your car come out several feet on the pavement. Is it illegal to do this every day for years on end?

    Is it illegal for councils and law enforcement officials to do absolutely nothing about these dangers?

        • Ahh, the classic “I’m happy to bitch about it but someone else can actually deal with it” attitude. Nice.

          • Oh I’m sorry. I should be the one that’s enforcing the law, is that it.

            And, could you explain to me what’s so wrong about bitching about those that cause inconvenience and a danger to others.

          • No you shouldn’t enforce the law, but if you feel that strongly about it you should bring it to the attention of those who do, rather than say “Oh well other people can also see it, one of them should report it”, which is the attitude heavily implied by your previous statement. Nothing wrong about bitching as long as it’s accompanied with action, otherwise you’re just, well, a bitch.

          • There is nothing wrong with suggesting that people ought to report what they see.

            Further, there is nothing wrong with suggesting that council and law enforcement officials ought to be aware of these situations given the length of time that they occur.

            If someone’s parked on a pavement for 20 minutes, sure it’s quite likely that a council worker or law enforcement official won’t be aware of it. When someone’s parked on a payement for years it’s unlikely that a council worker or law enforcement official won’t be aware of it.

            And given that it’s the council worker or law enforcement official job to ensure that these issues get resolved, they should blinking well resolve them.

            Whatever. Come back to me with a “well why don’t you report it then, hypocrite” snide comment and we’ll leave it at that.

          • Don’t mind if I do.
            Well why don’t you report it then, hypocrite!
            At least you’ve acknowledged your shortcomings, maybe now you can work on them.

          • Man, every time I’ve complained to the police or council about anyone, I’ve always been left feeling really dirty by the operator’s manner, and then got to see absolutely nothing get done about my complaint.

            So I don’t bother anymore. I’m not the police, it’s not my job to enforce the rules, so I just don’t worry about it. If I get my car home with all the panels straight, it’s been a good drive.

          • @Dman (can’t reply directly)

            You calling me a hypocrite does not mean that i’m acknowledging any shortcomings. You have no idea whether or not I report anything so for you to claim that I don’t is simply foolish.

        • The council doesn’t scout every single road and street in its municipality weekly looking for minor annoyances which citizens can easily report themselves.

          • Yes, but they do typically live and work in such locations. The point i’m making is that I see this kind of thing ALL the time – and I could point to a dozen or more residents that leave their vehicles in such locations for years on end.

            No one does anything about it.

            Oh you want to criticise me for not contacting the authorities? Well that’s a little silly given that you have no idea whether or not i’ve done that.

          • HaHa, they do look for any “infringement” they can make money out of on the Gold Coast…
            Absolutely, a police state is a good description of this town,god help the crowds coming to the “Games” lots of opportunity to make real money from them ????????????????????????

    • Yes, for the first three, which then means that number for is also a yes.

      As for Council’s inaction; once they have been notified of an offence like this they are required to investigate the matter within a reasonable period of time. Exact protocols will vary from Council to Council. But, once informed they have a duty of care to investigate and initiate a remedy. If they don’t, and someone is injured, they are liable to be sued.

      I don’t know about the Police, but Council staff probably have plenty of more important things to do than go looking for these kinds of issues. But, once a complaint is made then they should take action.

      If you are the one making the complaint make sure to ask for a job , or reference, number and request someone follow up by contacting you. Then make sure to keep a record of the complaint in case something does happen.

      Many people don’t want to report these things because they are afraid of starting something with their neighbours. At the very least, there can be tit-for-tat reports as payback. That can be a headache for everyone involved. And, some neighbours can become violent and damage property or even assault the complainant.

      I went to a complaint where a truck driver often parked his huge Semitrailer on the footpath of a quiet street. Not only did it force children onto the road, but he would wake the whole neighbourhood at 4am when he started it. The driver became very aggressive and demanded to know who “dobbed” him in. Then he started shouting abuse at the guy across the road from him, accusing him of making the complaint (which he didn’t). The complainant actually lived a few doors up the street, but I can fully understand why those closer to him were afraid to make a complaint.

  • What bothers me more is people parking right up against the edge of an intersection. This happens in areas that clearly don’t have enough parking for commuters near a train station but it blocks the vision when you’re trying to turn out from the adjacent intersection…

      • That’s never stopped anyone, though it should. My street has a clothing shop on the corner, weekends get so packed people park all along the street including the signed no standing zones at the entrance of the street. People will do what they like to their own convenience.

  • Yep, got done for this a little while ago.

    I had never done it before and wasn’t sure about the rules (had a feeling it wasn’t right though), but I was in a hurry and someone else was parked the same way so I pulled up and ran off to class.
    When I got back had a $100 fine…I’ll trust my gut next time.

  • If you had to ask this question, a road rules refresher is probably a good idea.

  • It doesn’t necessarily mean you were driving on the wrong side of the road. There are plenty of urban streets where there is effectively only a single car width on a two-way street because of parking on both sides. Being able to park on either side is a boon in such situations.

    There’s no such restriction in most of the 30-odd countries I’ve driven in, and the presence of reverse parked cars doesn’t seem to confuse anyone. In Australia, while it may be “low down on the crime-busting stakes” fines are a good source of revenue, and that often takes precedence in road and traffic situations.

    • It’s still an offence under the Transport Road Use Management Act. Unless otherwise indicated you must park as near as practical to the left side of the road.

      • I’m not disagreeing with the fact that’s an offense, only with the rationale behind it, and the argument made in the article.

        If pre-existing laws were the only argument for something then progress would be impossible.

  • I remember one time I was driving at night in a road with no streetlights and some guy had parked in the wrong direction. He left his headlights on and was talking to some mates, and his light was shining into my eyes so I couldn’t see a thing on the road. I drove a little bit to the right side of the road (to get the light out of my eyes so I could see) and as soon as I passed his car, I moved my car back to the left side, and I almost hit his trailer behind him which I had no idea was there. Luckily I slowed down to avoid an accident.

  • Stupid law.. I got done for this once.. in front of my own house.. not sure that the direction that my car is face should make one iota of difference.. NOTE.. in the uk.. this is perfectly legal and is done all the time.. can’t tell me we have less space on the road than they do there.. we have way more.

  • JP is correct about the UK. It is open slather but seems to work there. On thinner roads whoever is on the side where the parked car is gives way to oncoming traffic. The other thing they are looking at doing is increasing the speed limit to 80mph up from 70mph on a couple of the motorways (pommie for freeway). I can only imagine the police here having fit over that !!

  • Interestingly I have found this to not be illegal.

    I was drafting a TCP for a property that I’ve been working on at and the council suggested that this method of parking be undertaken for all deliveries and waste removals. However, this is method was stipulated as under full traffic management for when the vehicle arrives and leaves.

    On another note, in the course of this I spoke to the local police station, which is literally around the corner from the development site, they said that they would not fine for this.


    SWIM has been known to do this on occasion. SWIM would probably stop if they ever got a ticket but only does it on a quiet residential street.

  • I was told that in Victoria that you get the fine for parking too far away from the curb.

  • A useful iOS app for reporting such things to the local authority is “Snap Send Solve.”

  • Big THANK U FOR THIS! I’d become totally fed up with people spelling it C-U-R-B, instead of K-E-R-B.
    And that’s not just over there, but also here in the UK.

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