I went to the supermarket for my weekly shop, usually a calm experience when parking the car, with the business and crashing only beginning once I enter the shop. They have a large car park and it is always easy to find a parking space. This time, however, I was shocked to find there was a whole row of diagonally parked cars!

There is research[1] to show that spaces angled at 45 degrees can ease congestion. The bays require less course adjustment and the access lane can be narrower, so it is the most efficient use of space for parking cars.

However without this diagonal design in this car park it was as if someone was playing that crazy car parking game, where you drift round the car park and slide your sports car into a space. Not a safe manoeuvre and not possible in a busy car park.

The Mirror then posted ‘pictures of parking that will make your blood boil’, and it truly did after my experience. Many of the photos were of motorists taking the diagonal approach to parking. Other photos were of ‘up close and personal’ cars and worse still, cars parked across disabled bays and other specialist bays.

There are around 3.5 million car crashes every year in Britain, about 700,000 of which involve simple prangs to parked cars. “Prang and run bandits” colliding with other people’s cars when parked are responsible for £169 million in damage every year. 20% of which occur in car parks.[2]

In our driving tests we are taught to back in, but once passed don’t we all search for those double rows in the middle? This then becomes habit, if we can take the opportunity of pulling through to a vacant forward space why not — the best of both worlds!

It’s much safer to back into parking spaces. So why don’t we do it?

We are making it hard for ourselves, as while the back-end of our car is sticking out into oncoming traffic, we can’t see if there are cars coming. Our view is blocked by the passenger parts of the cars parked beside us.

According to the Safer Parking Scheme’s parking quiz, launched at the end of August 2015, 60% of the 6,000 people that answered it reverse park into a space.

It is cumbersome to back out of a space, to be sure, but is it the easiest option for some of us? Backing in requires mental rotation skills, or the ability to imagine objects in other than their actual position. (You can test your own mental rotation skills here.)

Do you lose your way easily? Psychologists have found that mental rotation skills have been found to significantly correlate with route learning. But don’t panic if you take the test and get below 100, technology is here to help!

For some years, we have had Sat Navs helping us with our route, and many cars have been equipped with rear cameras and other assist systems that offer considerable help with backing up too!

Parking is a core part of driving – and therefore a core part of learning to drive. Experience of real driving and parking is important when learning and so the Driving Instructors Agency have a partnership with some parking operators to ensure that pupils can obtain experience in real car parks.

Perhaps soon we shall see if they change the test, to mirror real-world driving, with forward parking being part of the test criteria. We learned at our Parking Forum that The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency are reviewing the driving test too, following a consultation at the end of August 2016 on ‘Improving the driving test’.

 

[1] https://theconversation.com/heres-what-maths-can-teach-us-about-how-to-design-the-perfect-car-park-62808

[2] Driving Instructors Agency, 2016