It’s probably happened to you before. You’re circling in the parking lot looking for an open spot at the mall. You finally see one in the distance, and excitedly drive towards it. Then, just as you’re about to reach it, someone runs across the lane, stands in the empty spot, and waves you off saying they already “booked” it.
There have been a some accounts of these incidents happening locally, but it’s not just a “Malaysian thing” either. The most recent incident that went viral (and used in the image above) was in New York where a woman and her mum came running into a space as someone was already parking there. And like the guy says in the incident, it’s a car parking space, not a woman parking space, right?
While this behavior can be seen as socially inconsiderate, the next question will be whether or not it’s actually illegal to do it. While you might think it’s a pretty small matter for there to actually be a law directly written about it…..
….there’s actually a law directly written about this kind of situation.
It’s definitely illegal to “book” parking spaces
Aside from the inconveniences it might cause, booking a parking space by standing in it is dangerous for the person. Drivers don’t usually expect someone to be standing or sitting down in a parking space, and there’s a real risk of being run over. An extreme case would be this Malaysian 3-year old boy who waited in a parking space for 90 minutes before his mum came to take that spot.
Standing in a parking space to “book” it is actually specifically mentioned in Section 50(3) of the Road Transport Act 1976 (RTA), and is a criminal offence. The Section is titled “unlawful interference and importuning”, and reads:
As you can see, this law also covers situations where a person stays in a parking lot as a “jaga”, or offers to clean the car that enters the parking space. And since the law doesn’t specify, it will apply to both public (like out on the street) and private (like in shopping malls) parking spaces.The general penalty of the RTA applies to this law, and is under Section 119, which puts the punishment at a fine up to RM2,000 or up to 6 months of jail. Repeat offences get a fine up to RM4,000, and/or up to 12 months in jail.
As an update, this was confirmed in a Facebook post on the PDRM’s official Facebook page which says pretty much the same thing.
But what can we do about it?
As to what to do about the person blocking the way, most people see 2 “solutions” at this point (unless you count a shouting match as a solution):
Keep moving your car slowly into the parking space until the person backs away
Take a photo or video of the person and make them go viral on social media
We’ll explain why these ideas aren’t so great, because well… laws.
It may be a crime for people to stand around in parking spaces, but it is equally a crime to run your car into those people. It may be tempting when your emotions are running high in anger, but don’t edge aggressively into the parking space in hopes of scaring them off either because that can also get you arrested for another crime if things escalate. That comes under Section 503 of the Penal Code - criminal intimidation:
These days, people are used to taking photos and videos to shame people on social media. But unless you know what you’re doing, you might want to shy away from putting the story up on social media because you could get into trouble with a few other laws if you don’t do it right. Instead, consider sending the photos and videos to the authorities (more on this in the next paragraph).
[READ MORE - Shaming others on social media can be considered a crime]
Now that you know what you shouldn’t do, you should also know that since standing in parking spaces is a crime under the Road Transport Act, you can report any incidents to the Road Transport Department (JPJ). We Malaysians get very skeptical of some of the laws we have because they seem to come with a lack of enforcement, but we can do our part by making sure that the authorities are informed of these incidences, and can then take action on errant individuals. The public actually has a few ways to make a report to the JPJ (with photo or video evidence):
Sending a message with any details you have to 011-5111 5252 over WhatsApp
Sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure that your photos/videos show the license plate of the offender, as well as their offence. You should also provide them with:
- Your contact details (include your IC)
- The location
- The date and time
- The license plate
- The details of what happened
If we’re all aware of the law, we can back each other up
Some people out there may be standing in parking spaces out of ignorance of the law; and for the same reason, some people may be unsure what to do when they see such a situation in front of them. Now that you know the law behind “booking” parking spaces, you’ll be more confident in handling offenders if you do meet them (you still shouldn’t do anything illegal to them), and you can back a fellow driver up if you see it happen to someone else. Our civic mindedness can go a long way towards making parking courtesy a social norm.
Again, instead of shouting threats and edging your vehicle into the parking space, if the person standing in the parking space is being stubborn about moving, you can simply look up this article and tell them Section 50(3) of the Road transport Act said “hi!”