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Learn To Parallel Park Like A Pro

Aug 10, 2008
Learning to parallel park can be an intimidating process for new drivers. Heck, it's even scary to some experienced drivers! But this is an art worth mastering - not only is it a big part of your driving test, but you are going to run into at least few situations in your lifetime where your parallel parking skills will come in handy. And just imagine how suave you'll look as you easily back your car into a tiny parking space! So whether you've tried before or you're just starting out, keep reading and you'll be conquering those tight squeezes in no time.

In case you weren't too sure, parallel parking is a method of parking where you park in line with the curb, in a straight line with other cars in front of and behind you. This is most commonly used in large cities where there are too many cars and not enough parking lots. It's also a part of the drivers test in most states, so it's a must-know. Some states, like Ohio, employ a maneuverability test - which is essentially parallel parking with traffic cones instead of other cars - so the same rules apply.

Rule number one: don't get intimidated. Even if you've already tried (and failed) before, DO NOT be discouraged! Start slow, and your confidence will increase with each practice session as you become more comfortable. It has less to do with "natural talent" or good hand-eye coordination than it does with simple, consistent repetition. Stay calm and allow yourself the time you need to become successful - it won't happen overnight, but it becomes less and less difficult with time. And pretty soon you'll be maneuvering with ease!

So here is the basic procedure for parallel parking:

1. Find a parking space that's at least 1.5 times longer than your car that you're sure you can park in.

2. Flash your turn signal and drive up next to the car you wish to park behind so that your rear bumpers are aligned and you are 2-3 feet away.

3. Check your mirrors and look over your shoulder to ensure that there are no vehicles behind you, then step on the brake and put the car in reverse.

4. Gently remove your foot from the brake. When your car starts to roll backwards, turn the steering wheel all the way in the direction of the curb. The car should now be reversing towards the curb at an angle. (If you think the angle's not working, you can always shift into drive and begin again.)

5. Once the back of your car is mostly in the space, turn the steering wheel all the way back towards the opposite direction in order to straighten out your car's wheels.

6. Center yourself in the parking space so that you're parallel and less than 12 inches to the curb. Shift into drive and adjust your wheels if necessary.. Voila!

Just remember that these aren't hard and fast rules - for instance, parking behind only one car will be much simpler since you don't have to worry about bumping the second car. Stuff like how sharply you have to turn your steering wheel will vary based on the type of vehicle you're driving, since each car maneuvers a little differently.

Many beginning drivers seem to make the mistake of trying to parallel park on a busy street before they have much experience. That can be panic-inducing! So here's a suggestion: tackle these challenges one by one; when you feel you've conquered one, then try the next:

- Park beside an empty curb in a quiet street or parking lot.

- Try out your parking skills behind a single car.

- Look for two parked vehicles that are far enough apart where you feel comfortable parking in between them. (Find a street that's not too busy for this)

- Park between cars that are closer together until you're able to do it in spaces that no less than one and a half times the length of your car.

Though it may seem hard at first, you can and will be among the many drivers who parallel park without a sweat. All it takes is a little effort. So what's your excuse? Go out and master the maneuver of parallel parking!
About the Author
Michelle is a parallel park-scaredy cat turned expert parker. Try out the drivers ed game to practice your parallel parking, and read more articles, tips & advice for passing your drivers test at http://www.driversed-game.com.
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