Driving lesson M6. Parallel parking

The parallel park is an essential skill to learn if you want to be able to park in town on the street. More often than not there is insufficient space to drive forward into a vacant parking space and therefore your only option is to reverse in.

Key learning notes

Parallel parking
The parallel park manoeuvre requires you to pull alongside the target vehicle you intend to park behind. Try to line up your left door mirror with the front end of the target vehicle.

Parallel parking

Parallel parking tuning pointHaving checked that it is safe to commence the manoeuvre you gradually reverse until your rear wheels are level with the back of the target vehicle. At this point begin to apply sufficient left hand lock until your car is diagonal to the kerb at about a 45 degree angle. When the back of your vehicle is about 2 feet from the kerb apply sufficient right hand lock so that the vehicle becomes parallel to the kerb. Continue to reverse slowly and steer to the left to straighten the wheels of your vehicle.

Should you need to move forward to correct your position you may do so provided you can still pull away from behind the vehicle in front without having to reverse again. Irrespective of this the manoeuvre must be done within two car lengths of the rear of the target vehicle.

The additional learning points associated with this manoeuvre are as follows:

1. Location
Carefully assess the parking space to ensure it is at least one and a half car lengths in size and that it is safe, legal and convenient.

Parallel parking location

2. Signal your intentions clearly
Make sure your intentions are known by slowing down well before the parking space and by positioning yourself reasonably close and parallel to the vehicle that you intend to park behind. Immediately get ready to reverse. The brake and reversing lights become a signal to following traffic as does the change in position.

3. Target car position
Try to position your car parallel to the target vehicle allowing sufficient room for oncoming vehicles to pass or following vehicles to overtake but not so close that it prevents you from completing the manoeuvre in the space available. The closer you are to the target car the more difficult it will be to get a suitable angle to reverse into the space available.

Parallel parking target position

4. All round awareness
Watch out for pedestrians from either side of the road who may cross behind you as you attempt to reverse. This will require you to be continually looking over your left and right hand shoulders being careful to pause using clutch control when your view to the rear is temporarily lost in the switch over. Check that you will not present a hazard to passing vehicles as your vehicle swings out. Similarly ensure you will not hit the rear of the target vehicle with the front of your car as you swing in.

Pedestrian awareness

5. Dealing with other road users
You must always give way to other road users. You must give way to any pedestrians crossing behind and avoid swinging the car out into the path of overtaking or oncoming vehicles.

Dealing with other road users

6. Keeping calm
Other experienced drivers will appreciate that if you rush this manoeuvre you will end up taking longer and run the risk of hitting something or someone. Therefore if traffic appears once you have started the manoeuvre you will usually find that they give you priority. Under no circumstances allow yourself to be hurried when doing this exercise.