Expert Blog

The etiquette of denting

When it comes to minor bumps when parking, are you a bit of a Penny? When no one’s looking?

In the long-running TV sit-com Big Bang Theory, Penny the failed actress and Leonard's on-off girlfriend asks, ‘What’s so great about being grown-up? Have insurance, pay mortgages, leave one of those little notes when you hit a parked car...’

Penny’s friends don't share her laissez faire approach – especially when she lets slip that she broke one of their wing mirrors.

According to a recent survey, one-in-five UK drivers are Pennys – admitting that they have damaged another car and scarpered without making the owner aware of the incident, despite this being not only immature but also rather illegal.

Though, actually, men were much more likely to admit Penny-like behaviour than women – 28 per cent compared to just 16 per cent of women. Perhaps women drivers are much more responsible than men. Or perhaps they are less likely to admit it when they’re not.

Clearly no one is perfect, however. Out of the 1,057 people surveyed, 100 per cent of respondents had damaged another car by accident. And of those that ‘dented and ran’ over a third admitted they didn’t feel any guilt, despite over a quarter admitting that they had made a noticeable amount of damage to the other vehicle.

Young people aged 18 to 24 were the least likely to own up to a bump, with just over a third denting and running. They were also the least likely of all groups to feel bad about it. Perhaps Penny was right: being grown up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Though of course young people may also be less inclined to own up to a bump because they are already paying punitive car insurance premiums. And even reporting a no-fault dent to your insurer – something insurers often instruct you to do – can result in a hefty hike despite not claiming, as one young driver found out recently, when her premium jumped by a third for reporting a dent-and-run wheel arch scraping.

Minor dents and scrapes are an increasing problem. It’s estimated that there are now more than 500,000 car parking collisions annually, 1,400 a day, costing £716 million a year – a rise of 4 per cent since 2010. Car parking bumps are now second only to rear-end shunts as the most common kind of car accident. Hardly surprising the way some people drive in car parks.

This may not be because we’re getting clumsier but because cars have got bigger, and parking spaces have either stayed the same, or are more likely to only meet the minimum standard. Over 20 years the width of cars has increased by a hefty 16 percent, meaning the average British car is now around two inches wider than the Department for Transport’s 5ft 11in minimum width for on-street parking bay spaces.

You might be forgiven for thinking the popularity of electronic parking sensors and cameras would have helped us avoid bumps and scrapes, but their effect seems to have been cancelled out by modern car designs which often have much more limited views than in the past. It’s all very well paying extra for a cool reversing camera, but it might be better to be actually able to see out the rear window of, say, your Range Rover Evoque – for free. Or out of the front of your VW Passat CC.

And whilst I’m moaning about the modern world, I should mention that another problem is that car bumpers are no longer bumpers. At least not in the way they were in the 80s when I began driving. Instead of solid, bolted-on lumps they are now effectively painted and shaped parts of the bodywork. Which is great news for bodywork shops. Very bad news for everyone else.

As you may have worked out, I had Penny tendencies when I was younger and lived in London. I wasn’t always entirely scrupulous about leaving a note if my bumper touched the bumper of the car in front while parking.

I didn’t in truth feel tremendously guilty about it. After all, I’d been to Paris. Where parking was so tight, Parisians drivers would habitually make room for their own car by merrily ramming the car in front and the car behind. BANG! BANG! And never leaving a note, nor even a bunch of flowers.

To an Anglo, everyone in Paris is très Penny.

 

Guest blogger Mark Simpson, journalist, writer and broadcaster

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