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Combination clamps ease parking misery

You still have to pay the fine, but at least you can unclamp your car yourself without waiting for the traffic officer.

Middle East police and traffic wardens could soon have a new weapon in their armoury.

Clamping cars that violate parking rules has rarely been used in the region because the cost of sending wardens to remove clamps once drivers have paid their fines has always outweighed the deterrent effect of the technique.

That may change with the development of a new type of clamp that can be unlocked using a combination code.

The idea is simple. The owner of a car that is clamped needs to telephone the police or parking authority and pay a fine and deposit using a credit card. The official then gives a combination code that allows the driver to remove the clamp.

A deposit is paid because the clamp needs to be returned to the authorities, at which point the deposit is returned to the driver.

A trial of the system in the UK has found that both drivers and traffic authorities benefit. Drivers are able to drive their car away more easily, and traffic wardens do not have to deal directly with highly irate motorists that are often aggressive.

TMP, a British company that is promoting the new clamps says that they make the whole process much less heated. The company's managing director Chris Nicklin, quoted in The Times today, said: "No matter how reasonable a person you are, if you have waited two hours for the clamping van to turn up there is going to be potential for a conflict situation."

Instead, with the combination clamp, you can be on your way very quickly, he said.