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Blog: Are women better at parking than men?

A red Mini CooperAre women better at parking than men? A survey by NCP car parks says so. But motoring journalist Maria McCarthy isn't so sure. She explains why.

When I was approached by the BBC to comment on the survey by NCP car parks which claimed that women are better at parking than men, I was torn.

Although I'm the author of The Girls' Car Handbook and fight the female corner on many motoring matters, I'm not sure I would on this particular topic.

My reluctance is because, although I know plenty of women who are brilliant parkers, many studies on spatial awareness and gender show that on average men score more highly on this particular skill.

And a scientific study of men and women's parking abilities carried out by Dr Claudia Wolf at Rhur University in Germany found that the male motorists were both quicker and more accurate.

Parking skills

Of course, parking when you know you're part of a study and are being watched by scientists in lab coats holding clip boards is a very different matter from everyday parking.

And it's this latter situation that NCP were ideally placed to study.

It's research was carried out over a month and involved 2,500 drivers, none of whom will have been aware that their behaviour was being observed.

By analysing CCTV footage of motorists parking in NCP car parks, the researchers looked at all aspects of parking - not just 'getting into the space' but other skills such as 'space-spotting'.

Women better at spotting parking spaces

They discovered that when entering car parks, male drivers often missed available spaces as they were going too fast to take advantage of them.

Women were better both at noticing spaces and spotting when other drivers were about to leave.

The study also addressed the issue of the 'reposition shuffle' - moving the car back and forth to get the best final position.

More than half - 56 per cent - of women 'shuffled', whereas only 29 per cent of men did.

This affected the quality of the 'central finish' - the final positioning of the car. Women scored 53 per cent for accuracy compared to men's 25 per cent.

Men park faster

Men did come out on top when it came to the speed of the manoeuvre however, with a brisk 16 seconds compared to 21 seconds for women.

Dr Nick Reed, senior researcher at the Transport Research Laboratory says both studies are interesting but that neither gives a definitive answer in the parking gender wars.

"The results from studies often depend on how they are designed and what measures you take as reflecting good parking.

"The German study required a large executive saloon to be parked under monitored conditions and this vehicle may have been intimidating and unfamiliar to participants, affecting the outcome.

"The NCP study was weighted in favour of the final parking position."

'Park safely, minimise delay'

Reed adds: "The most important outcome is that all drivers should park their vehicles safely while minimising delay to other road users." 

Having studied NCP's data, I still decided to support the male side of the debate - that men are better at parking at women.

Single-vehicle accidents

After all, look at Confused.com's figures on single-vehicle accidents - accidents which are often parking-related and involve colliding with a stationary object such as a wall, bollard etcetera.

Four per cent of female customers have made single-vehicle accident claim over the past five years, compared with 3.4 per cent of men.

So, the next day, I found myself in a car park at the BBC Television Centre together with Neil Beeson, a driving instructor who help with the NCP study.

Neil said the study showed women to be better at parking, while I countered that with men's track record in spatial awareness studies.

However, I did acknowledge some points in favour of the fairer sex, such as women's superior 'space spotting' talents.

As we spoke, Elayne Saunders, owner of a pink Nissan Figaro and a supporter of The Pink Car Rally, showed off her excellent parking skills.

You can watch a clip of us all here.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on men, women and parking? Is one sex better than the other when it comes to parking skills? Should  women’s car insurance be cheaper than men’s? We'd love to hear from you.

You can leave your thoughts on the messageboard below.




Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

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