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UK DRIVERS TRAPPED IN TIGHT SPACES: How drivers are feeling more of a squeeze exiting their cars when parked

Updated: May 13

A recent study from Churchill Motor Insurance has highlighted a pressing issue for UK motorists: the challenging ordeal of entering and exiting their vehicles in car parks.

The research shows that drivers have a mere 30cm gap — comparable to the length of a child's ruler or a box of cornflakes — to manoeuvre when parked next to another car.

The situation has pushed many to adopt unconventional methods to access their vehicles. Astonishingly, 22% of drivers have resorted to entering their cars via the boot due to the lack of space. This acrobatic feat has become a common sight, with three-quarters of drivers experiencing similar difficulties.

The study further reveals that 51% of motorists can only use the passenger door to get into their car. As a result, 57% avoid certain car parks, 83% skip over available spaces, and 75% let passengers out before parking to prevent damage.

Over time, the dimensions of popular family cars like the Kia Sportage, BMW Mini, and Ford Puma have increased — on average by 13cm. Yet, parking space sizes remain unchanged since the 1970s, based on the British Parking Association's guidelines of 240cm width. This mismatch leaves drivers with only 30cm to get in and out of their vehicles, a standard set five decades ago.

The Mini, a classic favourite, has seen the most significant increase in size, expanding by 33cm since 1955. Following closely is the Vauxhall Corsa, which has grown by 23cm since 1982.

This increase in vehicle size has also led to undesirable behaviours, with 28% of drivers admitting to using spaces designated for parents, children, or blue badge holders when they are not eligible.

The financial impact is substantial, with UK motorists facing an estimated £424 million in damages annually due to parking mishaps. A third of drivers reported car park damages last year, with the average repair cost at £223.50. Shockingly, only 7% received compensation from those responsible, while 37% have yet to repair the damage.

As cars continue to grow, with 32% of drivers now in larger vehicles than five years ago, the need for more space is driven by a desire for luxury, design, and practicality. This ongoing trend poses significant challenges for urban planning and highlights the urgent need for updated infrastructure to accommodate modern vehicle sizes.

Nicholas Mantel, Head of Churchill Motor Insurance, said: “Ask almost any driver and they will have a story about having to creatively escape their car due to a lack of space when in a car park, even crawling out through the boot. Widening cars combined with parking bays that haven’t been redesigned to accommodate today’s models, means motorists all over the country are at risk of damaging their cars through no fault of their own.”


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