What do Zig-Zag Lines Means and Where Will You Find Them?

Posted 28th June 2024

Zig-zag lines have been in the news recently, with various councils across the country setting out to tackle the issue of dangerous parking outside schools. These road markings are part of the language of our road network, and help to ensure driver and pedestrian safety. Research suggests, however, that the rules regarding zig-zag lines are often flouted by drivers, which can be problematic for other road users.


What do zig-zag lines mean?

Zig-zag lines play a crucial role in road safety and ensuring the sustained flow of traffic by indicating to drivers that stopping or parking is prohibited. Usually found in the approach to pedestrian crossings and outside of important buildings such as schools, police stations and hospitals, they were introduced in the 1970s and rolled out nationwide when they were found to prevent accidents and contribute to a safer road environment.

The rules regarding zig-zag lines are laid out in Rule 191 of the Highway Code, which says: “You MUST NOT park on a crossing or in the area covered by the zig-zag lines”. In the UK, these zig-zag lines can be found in two colours – white or yellow.


What is the difference between white and yellow zig-zag lines?

White zig-zag lines are found around all UK pedestrian crossings and indicate that a driver cannot park in that area at any time – 24 hours a day, every day of the year. They also prohibit overtaking in these areas.

This is classed as ‘dual enforcement restriction’, as both local councils and the police can issue penalties to drivers. The nature of the penalty varies between the police and local authorities, with the latter issuing a Penalty Charge Notice, where the driver has to pay a fine. If the errant driver is caught by the police, however, they will almost certainly face a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) and will be required to pay a £100 fine and occur three points on their license.

Unlike white zig-zag lines, yellow zig-zag lines need to be paired with a clearly visible nearby sign to be enforceable. They are painted outside the majority of school entrances and exits in Britain, as well as other public buildings where a clear exit is vital, such as fire stations.

Councils legally enforce the restrictions associated with yellow zig-zag lines, but the road markings must be supported by signage for Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) to be effective. This provides local councils with the power to issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCN) by use of CCTV or Civil Enforcement Officers. Unlike white lines, yellow lines don’t always ban parking for 24 hours a day, with signage letting drivers know when they are free to park.

It is technically legal to park on yellow zig-zag lines which do not have a sign with them, but as they have usually been installed for the safety of others, it is best avoided – especially as the police may still issue tickets to cars parked on yellow zig-zags regardless.



Can you dispute a penalty for parking on zig-zag lines?

As parking on zig-zag lines, white or yellow, is considered to represent a significant risk to the public, it is usually very difficult to dispute a penalty. The only instances where parking on zig-zag lines may be deemed acceptable is in the case of an emergency – for example, if you need to leave your car urgently to help a person who has been injured.


Why aren’t drivers allowed to park on zig-zag lines?

Zig-zag lines are painted onto the road to ensure a clear line of sight for pedestrians so they can both see and be seen by oncoming vehicles. This is essential for preventing accidents. It is also particularly important in areas where there are lots of small children, who are less visible to drivers. A child emerging from behind a parked car may not be spotted by a driver until it is too late (which is something we explored further in our article on road markings around schools).

Not parking in these areas also contributes to the smooth flow of traffic. Erratic parking is liable to cause congestion and delays, and make the road environment both unpleasant and unsafe.

Unfortunately, however, the rules regarding zig-zag lines aren’t always abided by. Research from insurance company Churchill which monitored primary schools in Cardiff, London, Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh found that illegal parking is extremely prevalent. Shockingly, one school saw 40 vehicles parked on zig-zag and double-yellow lines outside their premises during the school run in a single day.

As a result, half of the parents surveyed were understandably concerned for their children’s safety. This widespread rule-breaking has led some local authorities and schools to fight back, with schemes such as ParkSafe – where members of the public are encouraged to photograph illegally parked cars and send the information to the police through a QR code – being launched in response.

It is crucial that motorists follow the rules governing zig-zag lines to prevent accidents and create a safer road environment for everyone. Public awareness and responsible driving are key to ensuring we can all benefit from these road markings, so it will be interesting to see if new enforcement initiatives improve driving behaviour and, ultimately, public safety.


The Hi-Way team is proud to be a part of supporting the safety of road users through our services such as road marking and road stud installation. If you’d like to find out more about how we can assist in your next project, get in touch today


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