Parallel Parking

Reverse parallel parking is an essential driving skill. It may seem easier to drive forward into a space between two cars but it is almost impossible to do it this way. Cars have much greater manoeuvrability when going backwards than they do when going forwards.

If you have to perform a reverse parallel park on your driving test, it may be that only one parked vehicle is present.

You will be asked to pull up on the left, well before the next parked car, then- “This is the reverse parking exercise. Would you drive forward and stop alongside the car ahead. Then reverse in and park reasonably close to and parallel with the kerb. Try to complete the exercise within about two car lengths.” Now recommendations for the exact place to stop when “alongside” the car in front vary. You will find that exactly alongside is best – not in front, or with only the front half of your vehicle alongside. The reason for this is explained below. Stop with a good gap between you and the parked vehicle.

Go slowly back, and turn the wheel immediately so as to go towards the nearside kerb. This is the reason for stopping exactly alongside, for it automatically gives you the correct place to start turning the wheel. The examiner knows it is safer too. Because starting to turn from there, it is almost impossible to hit the parked car, something he has to think about. As soon as your front has cleared the parked vehicle, start steering so as to finish roughly where you started from. You are allowed a little to’ing and fro’ing to correct your position, just as you would if you were on your own. Don’t ask to do this, just do it. Again so long as you finish reasonably close to the kerb and you are not still nearly in the centre of the road, it will probably be okay.

You must finish within two car lengths of the parked car ahead. You may be asked to do this manoeuvre in such a place as to cause you to finish across a driveway. As you will not be leaving the vehicle, this is in order. However be aware that if you mount the kerb you will get no warning as this happens, so be accurate! It is permissible to do this manoeuvre without using the accelerator, using tickover only provided there is no loss of control. This is with a modern car that has an engine management unit (EMU). Without such a unit, it will not be possible.

The very nature of this manoeuvre is likely to inconvenience other traffic, so don’t start it until all is clear for a considerable distance ahead and behind, or as far as you can see, if restricted. It is an unwritten law that motorists wait for anyone doing this manoeuvre, whether on “L” plates or not, and this is what they will do if they come up whilst you are doing it. Be prepared though for them to squeeze past as soon as they think they can.