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I’ve been clamped four times and I was furious - but I was in the wrong every time. Fair cop, guys

I've been clamped four times in my driving career.

The first was when I volunteered to bring a group of my son's classmates on an outing to the Sealife Aquarium in Bray. I never noticed the double yellow lines on the road. It was rather embarrassing, waiting an hour to be unclamped with a gang of rowdy schoolboys slagging me from the back seat.

Stressful

Another occasion was in Dublin city centre, when I was 15 minutes late getting back to my car after a shopping spree. The 'bargain' pair of shoes suddenly became very expensive.

My most stressful clamping moment was on Merrion Square, when I was a political reporter working in Leinster House. I was over my parking meter time by an hour due to a late breaking story. My husband was in hospital and I had an angry child-minder waiting for me to get home.

I was raging mad every time I was clamped. And I won't repeat the words I muttered under my breath when I saw that dreaded yellow lock wrapped around my rear car wheel.

But, hey, I broke the rules, I paid the price and didn't abuse the clampers. I may appear to be in a minority in this regard because apparently some clampers now wear knife-proof vests to protect themselves from assault. In each and every case, the clampers were right -- and I was wrong.

Clampers have received a very bad press over the years. There is now a Facebook page dedicated to hating clampers. There is even a website that tells you how to remove a clamped wheel.

Savaged

It is undoubtedly the most unpopular job in the country. Private clampers, in particular, are getting savaged by a motoring public who seem to think they have a god-given right to park wherever they like.

But why should motorists get away with parking outside houses on private roads, and office workers be allowed to clog up spaces in shopping centre car parks and hospitals near their places of employment?

Last week, the British government announced a ban on clamping on private lands to end, for once and for all, what it said was the menace of rogue private wheel-clampers.

This would make it illegal to clamp cars at locations such as train stations, shopping centres, hotels and hospital car parks.

Fine Gael followed the lead by promising to publish a new Bill to restrict the ability of parking control firms to clamp vehicles on private property here.

The Bill will propose a licensing system to regulate the clamping industry and protect motorists from 'unscrupulous' clampers. Fine Gael is concerned that a loophole exists in the law that allows anyone to set up a clamping company.

I don't often agree with him but I was glad to see Transport Noel Dempsey announce he has no plans to ban car clamping.

Of course, there have been examples of 'rogue' clamping here. My other half got caught by one operator who turned a private parking spot in Churchtown into a gold-mine before former Fine Gael TD George Lee, with the help of RTE Radio's Liveline, got on the case.

Rogues

I've no problem with weeding out the rogues but, in general, clamping is a necessary evil that has a positive effect on driver behaviour. Before clamping was introduced, there was a complete disregard for parking regulations in Dublin and other cities.

Remember a time when trying to get on-street parking in the city was practically impossible? Clamping is responsible for freeing up parking on our streets, and once you don't outstay your welcome, you can get business done swiftly and cheaply.

The city council raked in almost €5m in car clamping fees last year. The company that carried out clamping services -- Dublin Street Parking Services (DSPS) -- uses 200 of those dreaded clamping devices to enforce the law.

While DSPS gets its cut, the balance of the revenue goes back into the city coffers and helps maintain the streets. It is very simple. If you don't want to be clamped, by a public or private clamper, don't park where you are not supposed to. If you don't play by the rules be prepared to pay the penalty if caught -- and put a clamp on your mouth in the meantime.


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