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A weighty issue in car parks

Most of us will have heard of the increasing waistlines of UK citizens. It seems like the obesity epidemic could be the greatest challenge facing the nation's health. It is interesting though that the same issue seems also to be afflicting our cars. A study by car accessories giant, Halfords has revealed some interesting statistics about our slowly bloating motors.

Most of us will have heard of the increasing waistlines of UK citizens. It seems like the obesity epidemic could be the greatest challenge facing the nation's health. It is interesting though that the same issue seems also to be afflicting our cars. A study by car accessories giant, Halfords has revealed some interesting statistics about our slowly bloating motors. Over the last 20 years, cars have got on average 16% bigger, resulting in some two inches being added to the width of a car. At the same time, standard parking spaces have not changed in size, meaning that we are all facing a tighter squeeze in the supermarket car park.

The study by Halfords has shown how this increased girth is affecting the everyday dings that blight our motors, as many of us struggle to get out of our car once squeezed into those tight spaces. The study reports that bumping car doors accounts for 50% of car park grazes, while bumps to bumpers come in at 14% and wings are clipped in 13% of cases. The company reckons that some 10 million drivers per year are forced to repair their once gleaming paintwork, with a spokesman saying: ''The majority of drivers we questioned blamed their scratches and repair costs on inconsiderate drivers parking too close to them but our research shows that the actual size of parking spaces is leaving them little choice."

The average cost of repair is some £50, meaning that UK motorists are forking out £500 million per year to repair those little dings. Supermarket car parks are the worst offenders, with 38% of drivers reporting minor accidents. Shopping centre car parks were next at 29% and rail station sites were third at 18%.

An AA spokesman confirmed that 80% of its members reported minor bumps and scrapes during the year but pointed to new technology as the answer: ''With even small cars getting bigger the familiar beep-beep of the parking sensor is a reassuring sound to many drivers. It certainly helps a driver avoid chickening out of taking on a tight parking space and risking embarrassment all-round for getting it wrong and exchanging some paint.''

It seems undeniable that cars have got bigger. A quick glance at the new MINI beside the original will confirm that. Increased comfort is certainly a factor but the main reason could be safety issues. Cars now require a certain area for crumple zones and rigid steel safety cells and this is undoubtedly resulting in larger designs.

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