Reverse parking, also known as parallel parking, is not just an essential skill for passing the UK driving test; it’s a manoeuvre that drivers of all levels must execute confidently in the hustle and bustle of everyday driving.
Often regarded with a touch of trepidation by even experienced drivers, mastering this skill can save you from the stress of finding a “better” spot and the embarrassment of multiple failed attempts. Let’s break down the reverse parking manoeuvre into a step-by-step process to ensure you can perform it smoothly and correctly.
Your Bookinstructor.co.uk driving instructor would have typically taught the manoeuvre hundreds of times, so fear not, you are in good hands on your driving lessons.
The first task is to identify a parking space. A good rule of thumb is to find a gap that’s at least one and a half times the length of your car. This extra space allows you room to manoeuvre without the risk of bumping into other cars.
Once you’ve found a suitable spot, drive past it and stop alongside the car you intend to park behind, aligning your rear bumpers. Maintain about one meter’s distance from the parked car. Your car should be parallel to the car and the curb.
Before doing anything, it’s crucial to check all your mirrors for any oncoming traffic, pedestrians, or cyclists. Remember, you’ll be reversing towards the flow of the road, so it’s vital to ensure it’s safe before proceeding. Signal your intent to park by getting into reverse gear immediately and consider using a left indicator if it would benefit anybody.
As you begin to reverse, look over your left shoulder through the rear window for a clear and accurate view of where you’re going. Start turning your steering wheel to the left when your rear wheels are level with the back bumper of the car you’re parking behind. You must also check over your right shoulder to ensure that before you swing the front of the car to the right, there are no other road users attempting to pass.
As your car swings into the space, check the front and rear of your car. You may need to adjust the steering to ensure that the nose of your car does not hit the vehicle parked in front.
Once your car is fully in the space and parallel to the curb, straighten your wheels and continue to reverse until your car is positioned centrally within the space. The ideal distance from the curb is about 30 centimetres.
If you find that your car is not quite parallel, adjust by moving forward or backward slowly, steering as necessary to straighten up. Your car should end up parallel with the curb and within a reasonable distance from other parked vehicles, allowing them to leave the spot without obstruction, “A grids width” is commonly mentioned.
Put the vehicle in ‘neutral’ and apply the handbrake. Before you switch off the engine, ensure that you’re happy with your parking job.
The more you practice, the better you’ll become. Find a quiet place to practice until you feel confident.
**Use Reference Points:**
As you practice, you’ll start to notice reference points on your car that align with the curb or other landmarks when the car is in the correct position. These can help guide you.
If you feel the manoeuvre isn’t going well, don’t be afraid to pull out and start again.
**Take Your Time:**
Don’t rush because you think you’re holding up traffic. Taking a few extra seconds to park safely is better than rushing and risking an accident.
Reverse parking takes a combination of spatial awareness, coordination, and confidence. By following these steps, and with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to reverse park in any suitable spot with ease, making your driving experience less stressful and more proficient—crucial for navigating the UK’s often busy streets and tight parking spaces. Remember, perfection comes with practice, so keep at it!