AA/Populus Panel

Christmas parking not for faint hearts

12 December 2008

Two-thirds of drivers have told the AA that stress from Christmas shopping in town starts before they even get out of the car. One in six (16%) who drive to shopping centres in the run-up to Christmas say that finding a parking space at this time of year gets them seriously wound up.

For some, the season of peace and goodwill towards all men gets off to a bad start early on, with 11% of those who find parking at shopping centres in the run-up to Christmas stressful saying that they have exchanged unpleasantries with other drivers in the car park.

According to the AA Populus survey of 7,380 drivers, motorists in Yorkshire and Humberside (17%) are most likely to confront each other while those in the South, South West, North West and Northern Ireland half as likely (9%).

More than a third of drivers (35%) expect to face a Christmas parking ordeal in their towns1 and will deal with the challenge in different ways:

  • Shop either early or late – 47%
  • Drive around until a space appears – 20%
  • No particular tactic, just hope for the best – 18%
  • Use park and ride – 8%
  • Shop elsewhere if can't find a space – 5%
  • Go home if can't find a space – 2%

AA comment

"Despite local authority efforts to relieve Christmas parking tensions with park and ride schemes and parking availability signs, driving into town to get food and presents is often not for the faint-hearted," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

"Clearly, some drivers' efforts to finding parking, particularly driving round and round the same car park until a space comes free, could create bad tempers leading to a flashpoint when two drivers spot the same space.

"Fortunately, Christmas parking stress diminishes as drivers get older and wiser, with 22% of 18-24 year olds very stressed compared to 12% of drivers aged over 55."

The AA urges drivers to consider park and ride schemes as an alternative to the town centre Christmas parking scramble. In many cases, the cost of parking and bus trips is little different from the cost of parking in the town centre. And, with fuel consumption soaring by a quarter as cars move from suburban into urban driving, there are additional savings from park and ride.


The AA Populus survey of 7,380 motorists was conducted between 21-28 November 2008

1Survey question: assuming that you drive when you visit a shopping centre prior to Christmas, how easy do you find it is to park your car?

Percentage answering 'quite' or 'very' difficult:

Total 35%
London 33%
South 36%
South West 28%
Wales 43%
East Midlands 44%
East Anglia 39%
Yorks/Humberside 33%
North West 35%
North East 37%
West Midlands 39%
Scotland 29%
Northern Ireland 42%

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12 December 2008