You’re a new driver and you’re hitting the roads alone for the first time. What are you most scared about? Not motorways. Not big roundabouts.
Parking under pressure.
Trying to squeeze into a tiny space in the Sainsbury’s car park with five cars queuing behind you and beeping furiously. The total regret you feel when you realise you’ve embarked on a parallel park on a busy road but there’s absolutely no chance of you squeezing into that tiny space. We’ve all done it.
Sound all too familiar? Read on to find out how to park safely and successfully.
1. Choose a car with parking assistance technology
New cars are getting smarter and smarter, often including technology to help you park, or even park for you. Check out the Intelligent Parking Assist technology from Toyota for example:
2. Practice makes perfect
This is an obvious one, but don’t be afraid to ask an experienced driver to join you while you practice different parking styles on a quiet road or in an empty car park. You could even use cones to really test yourself without any risk of hitting another car. The more practice you’ve had, the more confident you’ll feel when parking under pressure.
3. Learn the rules for parallel parking
The Institute of Advanced Motorists (via The BBC) recommends the following steps:
- Pull up next to the gap you want to park in and make sure it’s big enough
- Move slowly forwards so the back of your car is alongside the back of the car in front of your chosen space
- Turn your steering wheel to the left (practice a few times to work out how far you need to turn it, as it depends on your car)
- Reverse backwards using your rear view mirror to keep an eye on the car behind you and your wing mirror to check your position in relation to the kerb
- When your car is close to the kerb and you’re clear of the car in front, turn the steering wheel to the right (the same amount as you turned it to the left)
- Turn the steering wheel to the left to straighten up
This video shows you how it’s done (although it’s from the US so apologies if any of the language is unfamiliar):
4. Don’t be afraid to get an extra lesson or two
Are you a confident driver but prohibited by problems with parking? Even just one session with a qualified instructor could really make a difference. In fact, the AA Charitable Trust offers free training for qualified drivers who just lack a bit of confidence. Click here to see if you qualify.
5. Adjust your mirrors
You might find that it helps to adjust your left wing mirror downwards to help you see the road markings or parking space lines. Only do this if it’s safe, and make sure you re-adjust your mirror before driving off again later.
6. Parallel parking? Make sure the space is at least 4ft (120cm) bigger than your car.
The BBC recommends you allow 2ft (60cm) spare at both ends of the space. So if you’ve got a new 5-door Corsa for example (13 feet long), you’re looking at about a third of the length of your car in spare space. This is a minimum though – if you’re still getting used to parking, you might want to look for spaces that are at least one and a half times the length of your car.
7. Keep to a slow speed
It’s easy to feel under pressure when parking on a busy road or in a busy car park, but you’re more likely to make a mistake and have to start the manoeuvre again if you go too fast.
8. Avoid dry steering (steering when stationary)
While this might seem like a good option, especially when you’re half way through a manoeuvre and realize you’ve gone a bit astray, it can really damage your tyres. Use your clutch control skills to steer while moving very very slowly instead.
9. Bay parking? Try and straighten up your wheels before you come to a stop
This makes it easier for you to exit the space in a straight line, without veering off to one side.
10. Mastered your parking? Look for car parks with Park Mark® accreditation
Car parks displaying the Park Mark® tick officially meet the national standard for low crime, with measures in place to improve the safety of both people and cars. In the UK, a quarter of car parks have the Park Mark® award. Find your nearest one here.
We understand that parking can be a nightmare, but it will get easier as you become more experienced. Try not to feel pressured by other drivers. Take a deep breath and make sure you’re constantly looking around you and checking your mirrors. Good luck!
Got any great parking tips? Share them in the comments box below.