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How to bay park for the driving test

Navigating busy car parks in the UK can be a daunting task, especially if you’ve just started learning to drive. Find out everything you need to know about bay parking, from the different types of to a step-by-step guide on how to carry out the manoeuvre.

What is bay parking?

Essentially, bay parking is when you park in a car park bay. Many drivers, experienced and inexperienced, find bay parking challenging, especially when the car park is busy.

What are the different types of bay parking?

There are two different ways you can bay park:

  • Reverse bay parking, where you reverse into the parking spot so you can easily drive out
  • Forward bay parking, where you drive into the parking spot and then reverse out

Is reverse bay parking in the driving test?

Cars in a car park

Reversing the vehicle is one of the key areas that you’re tested on, so you might be asked to reverse bay park. However, there are a number of options that fall under “reversing the vehicle,” and you won’t know for certain which one your examiner will choose until the day of the test. You could be asked to perform one of the following exercises:

  • Parallel park at the side of the road
  • Park in a parking bay (either by reverse bay parking or forward bay parking depending on what your examiner requests)
  • Pull up on the right-hand side of the road, reverse for around two car lengths, then rejoin traffic

As a result, it’s important to practise all of the different possible manoeuvres so you’re prepared for every eventuality.

Can you fail a driving test on bay parking?

Yes, you can get a major on bay parking and fail your test, so it’s important that you practise the manoeuvre thoroughly. Getting a major while bay parking could be caused by a number of reasons, including:

  • Not following the directional arrows correctly in the car park
  • Finishing the manoeuvre with part or all of the vehicle outside the bay
  • Not observing your surroundings properly before reversing
  • Moving off without observing your surroundings thoroughly
  • Failing to give way when necessary

What is the average UK car park space size?

Aerial view of car park with car performing a manoeuvre

There aren’t actually standardised dimensions for car park spaces in the UK, meaning that you might find some parking spaces tighter than others. According to British Parking, the parking space norm is 2.4 metres wide by 4.8 metres long, and the space for manoeuvring between bays (i.e. the roadways) is six metres.

How to reverse bay park

Although reverse bay parking can be tricky, take a look at our video for a step-by-step guide on how to reverse bay park. We’ve also outlined the steps below for ease.

1. Select an empty bay

When selecting an empty bay, make sure it’s large enough to hold your vehicle without any parts of the car sticking out. Check the area and the other side for any possible hazards, then indicate to show that you’re turning into the bay. Make sure that you have enough space around you on the roadway to complete the manoeuvre without any issues.

2. Stop three bays past the target bay

Keep driving until the car is level with the third bay past your target bay (approximately two car lengths). When level with the third bay, stop the vehicle and do all your checks, including your blind spots. Once it is safe to do so, start reversing the car very slowly.

3. Turn the steering wheel all the way

When the next bay line is level with your shoulder, turn the steering wheel all the way to the left if you’re reversing into a bay on the left, or turn the steering wheel all the way to the right if you’re reversing into a bay on the right.

This point of reference is known as the three-line rule as it’s the 3rd line from your target parking space.

Make sure to keep observing the area around your car, and stop if there are any obstructions or road users in the surrounding area.

4. Ensure your vehicle will finish within the bay

VW campervan parked in a parking bay

Check your blind spots and side mirrors to ensure that your vehicle is progressing well and that your vehicle will be within the white lines of the bay.

5. Straighten the steering wheel

Once the car is straight, straighten the steering wheel so the car continues to edge backwards straight into the bay. Keep checking your surroundings as you do this. Once your car is fully in the bay and within the white lines, you can stop the vehicle and park if required to do so.

Which road users are most difficult to see when reversing?

Vulnerable groups are the most difficult to see when reversing. Children in particular are most vulnerable because they’re relatively short. It’s essential that you make sure you perform observational checks in the area before you start reversing – and while you’re reversing too.

If there are small children in the vicinity but you can’t see them when you start reversing, it might be a good idea to get out of the vehicle and check that they aren’t near the car or the bay you’re reversing into.

How to move off from a parking bay

To move off safely from a barking bay, make sure you check all your mirrors and blind spots. Drive slowly, checking for approaching cars or pedestrians as you do so. When you’re sure the path is clear, follow the directions and floor markings to the nearest exit.

How to forward bay park

You might be asked to forward bay park on your driving test. Make sure that you practise this manoeuvre in your driving lessons leading up to the test so you feel confident when performing it.

1. Choose your target bay

Choose your target bay. If the car park isn’t too busy, you might want to choose one that doesn’t have any cars around it so the manoeuvre is less daunting.

If your chosen bay is on the left, position your vehicle to the right, being sure you don’t enter any of the bays on the right as you do so. This ensures you have enough space to perform the manoeuvre.

If your chosen bay is on the right, do the reverse: position your vehicle to the left, making sure you don’t enter any of the bays on the left as you do so.

2. Indicate into the bay and start turning

Person indicating to turn

Slowly approach your chosen bay. Once the first line of the bay you’re aiming for looks like it reaches into the car beneath your mirror, this is the first reference point and your cue to start steering.

Check the mirror on the side of your chosen bay, as well as your rearview mirror and blind spot. Make sure you indicate if there’s anyone around you, then steer completely to the right if your parking spot is on the right-hand side, or steer completely to the left if it’s on the left-hand side.

3. Start straightening the steering wheel

Once you’re in the bay, start straightening the steering wheel until you’re progressing straight on. You should be able to tell this as any bay lines or roads ahead of you should be parallel with your dashboard.

You can tell when your vehicle is fully in the bay when the parking spot’s line in front of you is just under your side mirror.

4. Check that you’re in the lines of the bay

Make sure the vehicle is within the white lines of the parking space. You might have to adjust slightly if the vehicle isn’t within the bay. It’s better to adjust than leave the car outside of the white lines as this could result in you getting a major and failing your test.

It should be noted that you shouldn’t enter the bay in front of you if there is one. If your target bay is on the opposite side of another bay, you should drive around to it and perform the manoeuvre so you drive directly into your chosen parking spot.

Once you’re happy, bring your car to a stop, put the vehicle into park, and turn off the ignition if directed to do so.

How to reverse out of a parking space

If you’ve chosen to drive directly into a parking space, it’s likely that you’ll need to reverse out of it.

Firstly, put the gear into reverse. Make sure you check your surroundings, including your blind spots, before you start to move. Once the road is clear, start reversing the car slowly. You’ll need to stop if pedestrians or other vehicles approach.

Once the vehicle is about halfway out of the parking space, turn your steering wheel to full lock in the opposite direction to the one you want to go in and slowly continue to reverse. Make sure you continue to pay attention to your surroundings as you reverse.

When your vehicle is straight and there aren’t any hazards in your way, it’s now safe to put your vehicle back into first gear (or “drive” on automatic transmissions) and follow the signs and road markings to your nearest exit.

Get learner driver insurance from Adrian Flux

Having extra sessions with family and friends can help to make you a more confident driver in your ability to perform the driving manoeuvres. Just make sure that you take out learner driver insurance beforehand as having the right cover in place is a legal requirement. Call 0800 369 8590 or book a callback for a quote.

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