Minor bumps and knocks in car parks are often dismissed as unimportant due to the minor damage they inflict. But the picture looks a bit different when you realise that there are approximately 125,000 of these minor shunts every year and that the average repair cost is £1,428*.
That’s a total cost of more than £175m, every year, according to accident specialists, Accident Exchange.
Gone but not forgotten
I’ve experienced this myself, and I’m sure you have. In the last few years I’ve had around £1,000 of damage done to my car in parking incidents, where the car has been parked correctly and other people have driven into it while I’ve not been there.
Most incidents are the result of low speed manoeuvres in relatively cramped car parks, with damage ranging from front and rear-end collisions to bumps to doors, buckled wheels and burst tyres.
The increased size of modern cars doesn’t help either — especially as council planners and car park designers refuse to make parking spaces bigger. The minimum requirement for parking space dimensions has changed little in the last few decades. A survey of off-street parking spaces by Accident Exchange found that cars have to fit into bays not much wider than the average vehicle dimension — this is certainly something I’ve experienced.
For example, the original VW Golf Mk1 was 3.71m long and 1.61m wide, whilst the current Mk6 Golf is 4.19m long and 1.78m wide — a 25% bigger footprint.Similarly, the current Ford Fiesta is also about 25% bigger than the first generation 1976 model.
Current planning rules require new car parking spaces to be 2.4m wide, but many older car parks do not comply with this and even if they do, 2.4m is not as much as it seems, when you consider that the driver of the new Golf mentioned above will have just 30cm on each side once parked — you try opening your door wide enough to get out comfortably in that space.
An additional problem is the refusal of car park designers and councils in the UK to use angled car parking spaces, like this:
These are widespread in Europe and are much easier to drive in forwards and reverse out of — an important consideration as most drivers in the UK appear unable to handle the complexity of reverse into parking spaces, which is actually much safer and easier than driving in forwards.
All in all, car parks are a pain in the neck and while some of this is inevitable, some of it isn’t. I’ve used much more user-friendly car parks when travelling in Europe and do not believe that the UK’s car parks need to be as damaging as they are.
*The Accident Exchange research was based on 68,963 incidents handled between 2010 and July 2012.