Expert Blog

Hell is supermarket car parks

There’s a place where drivers lose all reason and all humanity. A place where the Highway Code no longer applies. A Hobbesian place where instead you can make up your own rules, and where pedestrians are merely pinballs to be flipped between car bumpers. A place at the very edge of society and civilization where anything goes and nothing is off limits. Except staying longer than two hours.

I’m talking of course about the supermarket car park. We’ve all been there. And we’re all going back. Even though we really, really don’t want to.

According to the AA accidents in car parks are the most common single category of car insurance claims. 20 per cent of all claims – equivalent to 6 million – are for damage caused there, and most of these are for supermarket car parks.

The true figure is probably even higher since many people, mindful of their excess or of losing their No Claims, don’t bother claiming for minor damage unless it can be proven to have been caused by someone else. And good luck with that, according to the report at least a fifth of drivers hitting another car in a car park would just drive off if they thought that no one would notice.

It’s true that many supermarket car parks function as meeting places for young tearaways with souped-up hot hatches throbbing menacingly with bass tubes. However, although noisy, these guys are usually relatively well-behaved – perhaps because a lowered suspension tends to make you more careful. The ones you really want to watch out for are the 4x4s with ‘Baby on board’ stickers in the back window. The main reason people buy 4x4s isn’t ‘safety’ of course – but just so they can speed over speed bumps !

Many drivers instead of slowing down, actually accelerate off the Queen’s Highway into the supermarket car park. For them, supermarket car parks seem to be a cross between a track day and the dodgems – WHEEE!!! What’s more, they’re FREE!!!

The fact that there will of course be other vehicles moving very slowly, or in fact stationary – or reversing out of parking bays – only seems to add to their need to get to the booze aisle ASAP and spend half an hour or so looking for a discounted wine that looks dead posh!

Supermarket car parks are also pavements, since people have to get to and from their cars – and load them up with their shopping before leaving. Which should give one pause. Literally. I mean, you might have thought that even the most reckless of drivers would be inclined to take more care here, if only because by definition they are about to become pedestrians negotiating the car park themselves. But only if you’d never actually used a supermarket car park. 

Things are so bad in fact, so red in tooth and claw, that by law all supermarket trolleys should all have defibrillators installed.

Don’t let it be said, though, that supermarkets don’t bring the exotic into all our lives. You don’t have to travel to the Continent to see people driving on the right hand side of the road – just go to Tescos, Asda or Sainsburys. Junctions in supermarket car parks don’t exist – or rather, the meaning of a dotted line across the carriageway changes to: ‘DON’T LOOK YOU LOSER! JUST ACCELERATE!’

Another fun past-time in supermarkets seems to be opening your car door without consideration to the one parked next to you, leaving a memento of your intimate inconsideration on their paintwork. You might try avoiding this by parking in the farthest corner of the car park, surrounded by legions of empty bays. So far away that you might actually have to take a bus to get to the entrance. But this never actually works.

Someone will always take the trouble to ignore all the empty spaces and park right next to you – and then ding you. Quite often, as an added gift, you will find yourself wedged in by two 4x4s and have to turn yourself into Elastoman to get into your (doubled dinged) vehicle.

And if, by some Biblical miracle, some ineffable stroke of luck, you manage to avoid all these terrifying hazards presented by other drivers when doing your weekly shop, you will I’m afraid still not escape unscathed. You will return to your car with your unexpected items in the bagging area and find that you have been rammed by a rogue shopping trolley. Probably one thoughtlessly discarded by Thomas Hobbes.


Guest Blogger: Mark Simpson. Journalist, Writer and Broadcaster

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