traffic wardenGeoff Caddick/PA Wire

A smartphone app being touted as helping you find an available space could be used by traffic wardens to catch you out.

So is this a handy parking solution, or a fine-in-waiting?


The system

The app makes use of a sensor placed on the floor of a parking space, which recognises when someone is parked there. The Metereye system works by sending out a signal from the sensor, which records when the vehicle arrives and when it leaves. It then sends this to a handheld device -which parking companies can use to monitor how people are using the spaces.

It means, for example, that councils can have fewer parking attendants, because they only have to visit spaces when they are occupied. It has so far been taken up by Westminster and Edinburgh Councils.

Concerns

Some councils have been bragging about how this could solve parking problems. Westminster Council released a smartphone app, which uses the technology to help you find a free space. This is doubtless a good idea - as long as you can get to the space before it is filled.

However, The RAC told the Daily Telegraph that this same information could be used by traffic wardens to help them quickly spot people who have overstayed their welcome. Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, told the newspaper: "This gives wardens the equivalent of eyes in the backs of their heads." "Motorists will hope it won't encourage attendants to lie in wait for people who have only slightly overstayed their welcome."

Should you worry?

Of course the usual defence applies: only those who are breaking the rules run the risk of being caught out. If you always park legally, then you don't have anything to fear from traffic wardens. You could argue that traffic wardens ought to have the best technology to help them enforce the rules, so we shouldn't complain.

However, we tend to think more flexibly than that when it comes to parking. Life doesn't always allow us the luxury of time and space to park as responsibly as we ought to. And councils don't always have the foresight to provide enough parking in areas of high demand.

In the past there has always been the chance that you could get away with it. Now, with the use of CCTV cameras and this smarter technology, there's a higher chance than ever that a spur-of-the-moment decision to pop to the shops could end up being outlandishly expensive.

We already face more than 8 million parking fines every year - last year there was one handed out every five seconds. Better technology is going to mean you stand an even higher chance of joining the millions paying for their parking mistakes.