You’ve seen that sign as you enter a car park concerning parking at your own risk, even though there is an attendant on duty; and maybe you’ve been a victim of what we have called here a ‘car park prang.’ You may even have been an instigator.
With the number of cars entering towns and cities every day, parking spaces are getting scarcer, and car parks are now packing them in pretty much like sardines, and the rise in number of SUVs and the like with their extra width is causing more problems than you could ever believe. Just think of the number of times you’ve seen a space next to an SUV and when you’ve got there realise that you will have to climb out of the sun roof (or boot) to get out if you get in. And then you risk returning to your car to find a dent or a scratch from the door next door.
According to new research by accident specialists, Accident Exchange, car park prangs cost UK drivers £175 million each year in vehicle damage. This is made up of around 123,000 general car park incidents with the average cost for car body and mechanical repairs resulting from the prang being £1,428. £1,428 x 123,000 = £175,644,000.
That’s a high cost in anyone’s books, and what we are talking about here are front and rear-end collisions to bumps to doors, buckled wheels and burst tyres, mainly due to low speed manoeuvres in the aforementioned cramped spaces.
But the minimum requirement for the dimensions of a parking space hasn’t changed in line with car sizes – even in the smaller cars. According to Accident Exchange: “The original VW Golf Mk1 was 3.71m x 1.61m whilst the current Mk6 Golf is 4.19m x 1.78m, a 25% bigger footprint. The current Ford Fiesta is also about 25% bigger than the first generation 1976 model.”
All this is obviously a problem when the average car park space size is around 237.5cm in width –leaving a Golf driver with only 29.8cm either side. In old money, that is just under a foot.
Lee Woodley of Accident Exchange said; “Car parks are never particularly easy to navigate through, particularly when forced to traverse several levels up and down. Mostly they are very confined and people are in a rush so there’s no let up in the number of incidents that take place every year. There’s no in-car technology at present that will halt accidents like this but automated braking systems could be the answer.
“However, some technology could be making matters worse. In some situations, our over reliance on gadgets like parking sensors could be making us less good drivers. Thankfully, most of the incidents we come across involve low speeds, which means injuries are very rare.”
So when you return to your car in a car park and there is hopefully a bit of paper under a windscreen wiper explaining why you need a new brake light and possibly a new bumper, or wing mirror, you can start to blame the car park for not having wide enough lanes – and then the driver who did it; particularly if there isn’t that bit of paper underneath the windscreen and they have left in a hurry.