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Why Parallel Parking Shouldn't Intimidate You

Woman parking car

Few things strike fear in the heart of drivers as much as parallel parking. Some estimates say that as many as a third of all drivers fear parallel parking. But never fear, learning how to parallel park is something all drivers can, and should do.

For a lot of drivers, mastering the art of parallel parking is the difference between getting your drivers license and riding the bus. That’s because many states put how to parallel park on driving test.  So, in those places, there is no getting around learning the parallel parking rules.

And in many cities with congested roadways, knowing how to do parallel parking can mean the difference between finding a spot near where you want to be and walking miles from the nearest parking lot.

So, if parallel parking sparks fear in your heart, or if you are just looking for a few parallel parking tips, you have come to the right place. 

Parallel Parking Steps

The first parallel parking rule is that you need to find the right spot – and make sure it is big enough for you to get into, and out of later. In general the ideal parallel parking distance is about the size of your car and another half car length for maneuvering, especially if you are a beginner at parallel parking.

OK, so here are the parallel parking steps.

Once you have found your ideal parallel parking spot, give a turn signal in the direction of the open space. Don’t do anything until the coast is clear and you don’t have anyone creeping up on your back bumper.

Now, pull up beside the car that is in front of the open spot, and make sure you leave a few feet between your mirror and the car next to you and come to a complete stop.

Now, put your car in reverse and turn the wheel hard in the direction you want your car to go.

Ease up on the brakes and slowly allow the back of your vehicle to enter the  parallel parking spot.

As you enter the spot, slowly allow your car to straighten out by turning the wheel in the other direction

Take care not to “kiss” the car in front or behind you with your bumper.

Make sure you are straight in the parallel parking spot, not too far from the curb, and have space in front of and behind your bumper. Feel free to take your time and go forward and reverse a few times to straighten out if you need to.

Now, give yourself a pat on the back. Well Done. I knew you could learn to parallel park.

A few parallel parking tips

If you are having a hard time imagining how this all parallel parking works together, DrivingTests.org has a handy interactive graphic that helps you visualize each parallel parking rule.

One good tip is that while you are parallel parking, if you find that your angle is wrong, don’t hesitate to pull out of the spot and start over. If other drivers are impatient, they can wait their turn. Don’t feel rushed.

Another thing to keep in mind is don’t let your pride get in the way. If it really isn’t working, a good idea is to take another stab with a bigger spot. Not every parallel parking spot is meant to be.

Asking for help parallel parking can also be a good idea. If you have a passenger in the car and you are still learning the parallel parking rules, it is often a good idea to have your passenger hop out and be an extra set of eyes watching your bumper and  your angles. That said, if they just make you more nervous, you have my permission to just ignore them as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is that parallel parking is a slow maneuver. Stay away from your gas pedal and stick to the brakes to control your speed. 

Be patient as you learn how to park

While you are a beginner at parallel parking, a good idea is to head out to a store that is closed on a Sunday and repurpose their parking lot. Bring two tall orange traffic cones or large boxes and set them up at the ideal parallel parking distance — about 15 feet apart — and practice to your heart’s content.

It is better to hit a traffic cone or two while learning how to parallel park on driving test than get some other car’s paint on your bumper.  

If parallel parking really isn’t your thing, then next time  you are in the market for a new vehicle, look for one with a parking assist feature. In some cases, the car will even use its onboard sensors to slide itself into nearly any spot. Let the computer do all the work and you never have to worry about parallel parking again.

But, until you get that new car, these parallel parking tips should have made finding that on-street parking just a little less nerve wracking. 

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