Since the 1970s, car parking spaces have generally stuck to the dimensions suggested by the Institute of Structural Engineers; 8 feet (2.4m) wide by 16 feet (4.8m) long. While these dimensions may have been appropriate once, modern cars are consistently increasing in size, meaning that these small spaces are becoming less viable by the year.

Director of Operations at Accident Exchange, Scott Hamilton-Cooper, sums the issue up by stating that drivers are ‘having to squeeze increasingly large cars into spaces that generally haven’t got any larger for a very long time.’

In fact, studies found that there are now 129 vehicle models that exceed the dimensions of a standard parking bay, including family cars like the Ford Mondeo, Audi A6 and Volvo XC90. Specifically designed to provide families more room, the issue with available space now lies externally with small parking bays, rather than the vehicle itself.

Research shows that larger cars, such as the Range Rover, now take up almost 90% of a regularly sized parking bay, leaving drivers and passengers just 21cm to exit their vehicle. Range Rovers also overhang regular parking bays by 20cm, leaving them vulnerable to scrapes and bumps. Even cars well-known for being compact in size, like the Fiat 500, have increased in size by a massive 47% since the 1970s model.

With an increased need for stricter safety standards, larger crumple zones and reinforcements, it was inevitable that cars would continue to increase in size, which poses the question, why have car parking spaces failed to evolve similarly?

The answer is simple; capacity. While councils and car park operators have the freedom to resize their own bay measures if they wish, many avoid doing this as introducing bigger parking spaces reduces parking capacity overall. With a focus on maximising visitor volume and revenues as much as possible, it is easy to see why there is little incentive to exceed the suggested parking bay dimensions.

Some NCP car parks, however, have trialled the installation of a number of larger parking spaces in an attempt to reduce the parking space struggle for motorists. Disappointingly, they found that this had a negative knock-on effect on the number of parking spaces available, meaning that parking was still inefficient.

With endeavours to solve the issue with parking bay measurements failing, other problems are beginning to arise.

A study by Accident Exchange claims that parking incidents now account for a worrying 30% of accidents, while over 675,000 parking collisions are now registered every year at huge costs to insurance companies (almost £1.5 billion).

Similarly, when AA polled its members, findings revealed that 43% said they’d had a dent or scratch caused by someone else in a car park.

Parking spaces

[Image: Shutterstock, December 2020]

Small Car Park Spaces

Accidents do happen, but a recent study by Halfords showed that while ‘the majority of drivers blamed their scratches on inconsiderate drivers parking too close’, their research concluded that actually ‘the size of the parking spaces left them little choice.’

Their research also found that for each dent or scratch, drivers have to fork out a minimum of £50 in repairs or risk having the value of their vehicle reduced drastically by hundreds of pounds. Car doors were most likely to be damaged, closely followed by bumpers and wing mirrors.

It was also interestingly revealed by Halfords that supermarket car parks were by far worst culprits for small parking spaces, with up to 38% deemed as being too small for most vehicles, particularly when taking into consideration extra space for loading shopping.

And, it’s not just damage to cars that is being caused by small parking spaces. Drivers have also reported sustaining injuries from having to squeeze in and out of cars crammed into tiny parking spaces, with muscle strains and back injuries being the most common complaints.

Although more and more cars are being fitted with parking sensors and cameras, making parking easier, most drivers are still having to deal with the everyday frustrations and anxieties linked to small parking spaces and larger cars. From being unable to find a suitable parking space, to having to fork out for parking-related repairs, or even sustaining parking-related injuries, it is clear that parking spaces designed in the 1970s are no longer sufficient for our ever-growing vehicles.

 What are your thoughts on parking spaces stuck in the 1970s? Has your car been damaged as a result of unviable parking space dimensions?

 Let us know in the comments.

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