And when you do find one, slotting your car into it is a challenge that rattles plenty of very competent drivers. We talk to an expert for their tips on how to handle parking problems.
Parking is the Achilles' heel of many car owners – even if you find a perfectly sized spot, manoeuvring your car into it can be very stressful. In fact, parallel parking has been voted the trickiest motoring manoeuvre by an Accident Advice Helpline survey.
Parking your car near home could also be a challenge. If a garage isn’t an option, those who pay for street parking permits aren’t always guaranteed a spot right outside their home – which can be a real pain given that where you park can affect your car insurance premiums. Little wonder, then, that the average UK driver wastes four days a year trying to find a space they can fit into.
So how can drivers solve their own parking problems? Motoring journalist Sue Baker (@carscribe) explores solutions with Rebecca Ashton (@rebeccaashton68),who is head of driver behaviour at IAMRoadSmart (@IAMRoadSmart) and has been an approved driving instructor for 20 years – so she has some sterling advice.
When the British Parking Association surveyed 2,000 drivers, it found that parking problems are (perhaps unsurprisingly) worst in London, where it typically takes a driver almost eight minutes to find somewhere to leave their vehicle. This figure is five minutes in eastern England and the East Midlands.
Their research revealed that:
It’s parallel parking. An Accident Advice Helpline poll discovered that many of us are happy to drive around 100 metres further just to find an easier place to park. Nearly half of drivers admitted to attempting a parallel park that went so wrong that they gave up halfway through. A quarter have even exited the car and let someone finish parking for them.
‘Parallel parking has been a thorn in drivers' sides since the invention of the car,’ says David Carter of Accident Advice Helpline. ‘We've all felt the pressure of getting into a tight parking space on a busy street when others are watching.’
These were the top ten most troublesome driving manoeuvres identified in the poll:
‘Try to take the fear factor out of it,’ says Rebecca Ashton, who is an expert at guiding new drivers through the techniques of skilled parking. ‘People get very concerned about trying to park, they worry about being watched and not doing it properly. Take your time, don't be in a hurry. There's no shame in manoeuvring slowly to get it right.’
Cars equipped with parking aids, such as reversing cameras and sensors that sound an alarm when you come into close proximity with another vehicle, are already on the market.
Some vehicles also have self-park systems which, when you simply press a switch, let clever electronics, assisted by cameras and radar, steer you into a gap while you sit hands-off in the driving seat.
There are also apps that all drivers can use – not while they’re driving, of course – such as JustPark, which will help you find a parking space ahead of time, taking away some of the stress of the journey.
It has already been developed by German automotive technology company Bosch, although it’s not road legal in the UK yet. Automated valet parking is described by the company as ‘an important milestone on the road to autonomous parking’.
With a command from a smartphone, an owner can automatically park the vehicle in an assigned spot without even being in the car, and without having to monitor its movements.
Where you park your car when you go home could affect your car insurance premiums. The chances of your car being stolen can increase depending on where you park it overnight. For example, if you park it on a driveway, or even better in a locked garage, it may be safer than if parked by the kerb of a road – even if it is your own. As such, insurers will ask during the quote process where you park your car.
Finding a parking spot is a challenge, not to mention fitting your car into it when you discover one. Even though it’s a stressful experience, staying calm is the best way to go.