Driving Test Manoeuvres – The Parallel Park

Once you’ve mastered the basics of steering and speed control, driving around town may seem relatively easy but the dreaded driving test manoeuvres are a different matter altogether.

Designed to test new drivers’ precision skills, manoeuvres are an essential part of the driving test, and allow the examiner to assess how accurately the vehicle can be handled.

Parallel parking is arguably one of the most feared out of all the driving test manoeuvres, and although it can take a bit of practice at first, once you know a few insider tips, you’ll be surprised to discover that it’s actually quite easy.

Here’s a closer look at the parallel park and how to pull off the move without a hitch every time.

Why is the parallel park important?

The parallel park is a manoeuvre which is taught by every driving instructor and despite changes to cars and technology, remains a fundamental part of the overall skills which will be required to drive on the road.

It won’t always be possible to simply drive into a parking spot, especially in towns and other busy areas. Parallel parking provides the means to be able to drive into a parking spot on the street by reversing into it from a parallel direction.

Three steps to success

The parallel park does require some precision driving but once you know how to line up your car, and how far to turn the wheel you’ll be surprised at how easily your vehicle will slot into place.

The manoeuvre can be broken down into three steps which are as follows:

Identifying a space

Not all streets are suitable for parallel parking because they’re simply too busy and finding space in the traffic to reverse is an impossible task.

You are looking for a space between two cars which is at least one and a half times the length of your own vehicle; any smaller and it could be a tight squeeze getting your car into the gap.

Don’t forget to check that the parking space is in an area where it is legal for you to park and that you won’t be causing a hazard.

Signal in advance

The chances are that there will be some traffic around you when you want to complete the parallel park manoeuvre so providing plenty of warning of your intentions is vital. Make sure you know who is behind you and slow down well in advance, indicating your intentions to pull in.

Place your car alongside the vehicle you want to park behind, making sure you are parallel and reasonably close. The reverse lights on your vehicle will let any traffic behind you know what you are planning to do.

Although you don’t want to be sticking out too far into the road, don’t be tempted to get too close to the vehicle you pull up next to. If there’s not sufficient room you won’t be able to get the angle you need to swing your car backwards into position

Making your move

Once you’ve checked that it’s safe to reverse, move backwards until your rear tyres are level with the back of the car you are currently alongside. At this point you’ll want to apply enough left handed lock to your steering wheel to place your car roughly 45 degrees diagonally from the kerb.

When your car gets close to the kerb, approximately two feet, remove the left hand lock and apply sufficient right hand lock to straighten the car up, allowing your vehicle to slowly continue to move backwards. This second steering lock should place your car parallel with the pavement.

You may need to steer your car slightly to the left to straighten up your wheels, continuing to move it slowly backwards into the ideal position.

What to watch for

To perform a parallel park well, you’ll need to have good all round observation skills as you will have to watch not just the movement of your own car but also pedestrians and other road users.

As your car is moving backwards, don’t forget to be on the lookout for pedestrians who may carelessly walk out behind you from either direction. Use your mirrors to give you good all round vision and move slowly at all times.

Other traffic on the road will have right of way and you should stop and let them go around you if possible. You may find that in practice the majority of other drivers will wait for you to complete your manoeuvre first before driving round you. Don’t be deterred by having an audience and don’t let it hurry you along; moving too quickly is sure to end up in a failed attempt.

Finally, be aware that the front of your vehicle will swing out quite sharply when you’re moving it into its final position. Make sure there’s enough clearance room between you and the car in front so that you don’t collide with it as you straighten up your car. Also check that you aren’t about to hit any oncoming traffic that’s decided to drive around you rather than wait.

A parallel park manoeuvre takes a bit of practice but knowing when to start turning the wheel and how much can be a large part of getting to grips with the move. Although it may seem daunting to learn, once you’ve mastered it you’ll be eternally grateful when you can simply slide your car into a convenient parking space in town! Whatever you need to learn or practice Freeway Driving School will help you grow in confidence until you are ready to pass your test.