Parallel Parking For The Novice Driver

Submitted by: George Gabriel

This could be the most talked about maneuver amongst new drivers and their biggest fear, when it comes to driving. I have heard of stories how drivers elect to park one or two blocks away to avoid parking between two cars.

Safety is the most important thing to consider, when attempting to park between two vehicles.

Approaching a vehicle ahead of you, parked on the side of the roadway should be planned well in advance. The beginning of the maneuver should start far enough back. If the roadway is wide enough, check your mirrors, touch your brake pedal to warn other drivers that you are slowing down and stopping. Signal to the right, assuming we are parking on the right. Check your right shoulder, keeping the steering wheel straight. Once everything is safe, gradually move over and drive in a straight line alongside the vehicles you re planning to park between. Do not attempt to move in at the last minute, towards the vehicle. You should be planning to maneuver your vehicle in a lot sooner, so you will be going straight along side the vehicle, instead of moving in towards it. You should have a minimum of a couple of feet clearance.

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As you pull along side the spot that you are attempting to park in, pause and make a decision on the size of area. Is it big enough for your vehicle? This decision should only take a couple of seconds. You should have a few feet extra on both ends of the car. You have to leave enough room for other drivers that may attempt to back up to clear the vehicle in front of their car to get out. Once you have decided the area is big enough. Continue straight ahead and stop when you are parallel to the vehicle you are going to park behind, and change gears to reverse.

Look out the back passenger window and check if you can see the tail end corner of the vehicle, you are attempting to park behind. If you can see it, this is your turning point. If not, check your left shoulder for pedestrians. You should not have to worry about traffic at this point. Your front end is not swinging out. Only when it is safe, roll straight back looking out the back passenger window, and stop when the back corner of the vehicle comes into view. By doing this, the vehicle front end should clear the car in front of you when you swing in, but you still have to check to make sure the front end clears. If you are not sure. Move back out and start over. Do not take chances. It will not work if you are only a couple inches away from the vehicle beside you. You need to be two or three feet away.

Now is the time to make the maneuver into the parking spot. First we have to do some safety procedures. Check your mirrors for vehicles and cyclist coming up behind you. Check your blind spot just in case there is someone coming across, or beside you on your left side. Make sure there is no vehicle coming towards you, especially if its a narrow roadway. If your back end is going to swing into the parking spot, the front end is going to swing out, possibly over the center line into oncoming traffic.

Once the safety checks are all done, and you can see the tail end of the vehicle beside you. Move in slowly with your foot covering the brake, only to ease up to get the vehicle rolling, and pushing down to slow the vehicle. Use the gas pedal only to get it rolling if you have to, but make sure you are covering the brake during the majority of this maneuver. You should be looking out the back window and watch the curb of the sidewalk slowly disappear along the tail end of your vehicle. The curb will disappear from the left passenger side, to the right side behind you. Once you think the curb has disappeared on the back corner of your side behind you, pause and gradually turn the wheel the other way. The faster the curb disappears, the faster you have to turn the steering wheel. Attempt it slow! Once the curb is not visable along the tail end drivers side, the steering wheel should be turned all the way the other way at this point, before you roll back any further. Make sure you glance forward as your front end swings in, to make sure the front end of your vehicle is clear of the vehicle in front of you. Once you know the front is clear, continue to look back until the vehicle is stopped.

Change gears and move forward with your foot on the brake, keeping in mind the wheels of your vehicle is turned out towards the roadway. Straighten the front end of the vehicle and the wheels of your vehicle. If you are not sure of the direction the wheels are turned, slowly release the brake and watch your front end roll and correct accordingly. (Check driving manual for wheel alignment when parking on a hill.)

This driving technique has worked for my students in the past, and I still use it. Vehicles have changed over the years, and it is harder to see the back end of the vehicle. Please consult with a family member, and or recognized driving school for further instructions on parallel parking.

About the Author: Owned and operated a driving school for several years. Taught over 2000 kids and older people how to drive. Now operating a golf tee time site at

and a sister golf site at


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