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How to parallel park for the driving test

The ability to parallel park is a basic driving skill and something you may be asked to do on your driving test.

Of course, nowadays most new cars have parking sensors, rear view cameras and many other driver assistance technologies to help you drive and perform specific manoeuvres, but it’s best to learn the basics in case the car you are driving in does not have such luxuries. 

This blog explains everything you need to know about parallel parking and offers eight tips on how to do it safely.

parallel parking

What is parallel parking?

Parallel parking is parking your vehicle parallel to the road, usually in a line of other vehicles. You’ll normally pull up next to the car in front of the vacant parking space and reverse in. 

It’s a difficult skill for new drivers to learn and even experienced drivers can sometimes fail to make the manoeuvre without shunting back and forth a number of times. 

Why do I need to reverse into the space?

Typically, if you drive in forward, it means bumping up on the kerb possibly endangering pedestrians and causing damage to your vehicle and its tyres. If two spaces in a row are unoccupied it is much easier to move into the area frontwards. When you reverse into  a kerbside parking space you will be able to get into a smaller space than if you drive forward into it.

Cars also have a better steering lock when reversing.

You need to be able to parallel park in most residential roads and in town and city centres.

How do I parallel park?

This is how to park with the flow of traffic, on the left-hand side of the road. If you need to park on the right-hand side, the directions are reversed.

1. You should have a good idea of the size of the car you are driving so you can make sure the space you are aiming to park in is big enough. Ideally, the space you are aiming to get into should allow for two feet of clearance, front and back.

2. Indicate, then pull up alongside the space you want to park in. Edge forward until the centre of your passenger side front window lines up with the front of the car in front of your space.

3. Check your mirrors and your blind spot and when it is safe to do so, slowly begin reversing, remaining vigilant, looking over your left shoulder and through the rear windscreen.

4. As you slowly reverse, line up your back tyres with the back bumper of the car in front of your space.

5. When you turn to reverse into the space, the front of your car will swing out into the road so you must check your blind spot again and remain vigilant.

6. When it is safe, turn the steering wheel one complete turn to the left and start reversing, using your mirrors to check the kerb and the vehicle you are reversing towards.

7. When you can see the kerb in your nearside mirror and you’re clear of the car in front, start turning the steering wheel to the right bringing the front of your car in towards the kerb.

8. Straighten your position on the road by turning the steering wheel to the left so the car reverses straight back. You should aim to park your car an equal distance  from the cars immediately behind and in front of you. 

Do you always have to parallel park on your driving test?

You don’t always have to parallel park on your driving test but it’s one of the driving manoeuvres you may be asked to perform. You will be asked to perform at least one of three tricky manoeuvres:

  • parallel parking at the side of the road
  • parking in a bay – either by driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out
  • pulling up on the right-hand side of the road, reversing for about two car lengths, and rejoining traffic

Will I fail my driving test if I can’t parallel park?

A failure to parallel park on your driving test won’t necessarily mean an automatic fail. 

The examiner will be looking to see that your observations are thorough; that you don’t get too close to the parked car in front, and that you stop reasonably close to the kerb without bumping up on it.

However, it could mean an automatic fail if you are not vigilant enough, you hit the kerb, get too close to any of the vehicles you are parking between or you lose control of your vehicle.

Read our blog for tips on passing your driving test first time

parallel parking

Can I use my rear-view camera or parking sensors to parallel park during my test?

Reversing cameras are a driving aid which help to make parking manoeuvres easier and safer as they provide a view from immediately behind your vehicle. 

On your driving test you are free to make use of any such technologies available to you.

Learner driver insurance: not so tricky as parallel parking

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