A national survey of supermarket carparks appears to provide further proof that fining motorists who misuse accessible parking spaces cuts levels of abuse.
But the survey by more than 550 disabled supporters of the Baywatch campaign also found levels of abuse in two of the big four supermarket chains had increased since the previous survey in 2007.
And the new survey found some disabled shoppers were experiencing threats and verbal abuse when they challenged motorists who were misusing accessible spaces.
The best performer in the survey was Sainsbury’s with nearly half of surveyors who visited their carparks last September reporting no abuse of any accessible bays.
More than half of those who visited Sainsbury’s also reported seeing signs warning that people using accessible bays without displaying a blue badge would be fined.
Although 16 per cent of Sainsbury’s total spaces surveyed were being used by a vehicle that was not displaying a blue badge, this was an improvement of two percentage points since the 2007 survey.
A Sainsbury’s spokeswoman said: “Last year we introduced a nationwide scheme of monitors to help keep our disabled bays open for those who need them. It is great to hear that they are having a real impact.”
The worst performer was Tesco, with nearly one in four bays abused, a slight increase in misuse since 2007.
According to Baywatch, Tesco has started to enforce bays at some of its supermarkets, but “only a measly 10 per cent of people reported any sign of this”.
Asda – the first supermarket to introduce widespread fining for abuse in 2008 – saw misuse of its bays fall from 23 per cent in 2007 to 19 per cent.
But Morrisons, which failed to follow Asda’s lead on fining, saw abuse rise from 13 to 17 per cent of bays.
Helen Smith, director of policy and campaigns for the disabled motorists’ charity Mobilise, which runs the Baywatch campaign with the British Polio Fellowship and Disability Now magazine, said the survey showed that fining bay abusers works.
She added: “In order to see real improvements for their disabled customers, supermarkets need to do more than just put up signs – they need to practice active enforcement as well.
“It’s not acceptable for supermarkets to pass the buck on to their disabled customers by refusing to monitor their bays.
“Instead, supermarkets should ensure that disabled customers can come in and shop – without fear of intimidation.”
18 February 2010