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Reverse Parallel Park

Parallel parking or reverse parking as it can also be referred to is one of four manoeuvres you will need to learn before taking the driving test. The reverse parallel park manoeuvre is one that many struggle with due to the complexity of the manoeuvre. Reverse parking is made easier by the use of reference points which is what we will use.

There are no rules in terms of technique (how you do it) to the reverse parallel park as such, although during the driving test, the examiner will be looking for you to demonstrate three key points.

These are:

Accuracy - To successfully park behind another vehicle and by finishing not too far away from the vehicle in front and not too far from the kerb. Also by not touching the kerb or mounting the pavement.

Control - By keeping the cars speed under control by use of clutch control and by use of effective steering.

Observation - Constant all-round observation throughout the manoeuvre.

Reverse parallel park guide A

During the driving test, the examiner will ask you to park on the left. This may simply be to test your ability at parking on the left safely, or it may be for the reverse parallel parking manoeuvre.

The examiner will provide a briefing that they wish you to demonstrate the reverse parallel park on the car in front. Whilst moving off to get position for this manoeuvre, move off slowly so as to get an ideal and accurate position. The examiner allows plenty of time for manoeuvres, so no need to rush. As you are about to pull alongside the car, check your interior and left mirror. If there are approaching vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians, indicate to the left.

Ideally, stop a little ahead of the car and for the distance away from the side of the car, around half of a metre up to 1 metre maximum.

Once stopped, remember to cancel your indicator if you applied it. Now select reverse gear regardless of any approaching traffic as your reverse light will provide them with your intension to reverse. If a car hesitates to go round you put a left signal on until they have gone passed, then cancel it.

Reverse parallel park guide B

Before you start reversing backwards, it is essential you take all round effective observations. If there are any approaching vehicles or cyclists, wait till they have passed. Also remember pedestrians. If they are close or approaching your car at any point throughout this manoeuvre, stop and let them pass.

Once you are happy it is all clear, look in the direction that the car is travelling, which is out of the rear window, then proceed to move the car backwards. Keep the car very slow. Think of a slow walking pace to give you an idea. Good clutch control is required to keep the car this slow. If your car permits, just use the clutch to move the car and cover the brake in case you need to stop quickly. Not all cars allow this feature however.

You will now need to get the back wheel of your car level with the rear of the car next to you. If you go back slightly too far dont worry as the intention is to make sure that when you turn you do not go near the car on the left.

Keep the car very slow as you will need to constantly look around in all directions and be accurate with your reference points. Once you are happy the cars are lined up, stop the car. Your car is now at it´s point-of-turn.

Reverse parallel park guide C

In a moment, whilst reversing you will be steering to the left. This is called the point-of-turn and the front of your car will swing out into the road. This is the most hazardous part of the manoeuvre. Before moving the car or steering, take all round effective observation. This includes your right blind spot in case there maybe cyclists you can´t see in the mirrors for example.

If you are happy it is all clear, look in the direction the car is travelling (out the rear windscreen) and very slowly move the car backwards. Just as you move the car, steer full lock to the left. You will now need to establish the next reference point. This is the point in which you straighten the wheels of the car.

Whilst reversing to this reference point, you will need constant all-round observation and likely needing to stop if any vehicles approach at this point. Also if you are reversing towards pedestrians, stop, allow them to pass before proceeding. Don´t forget to make frequent checks out the rear windscreen.

This reference points can vary from car to car, but if you line up the first part of the passengers door handle with the join between the kerb stone and the tarmac you should straighten the car with an angle of 45 degrees.

Allow the car to continue rolling back until the front part of the door handle lines up with the join between the kerb stone and the tarmac, then stop.

At this point check round for traffic and only if the road is clear turn the wheel full lock to the right and the car should turn and come up alongside the kerb.

Reverse parallel park guide D

It may be an idea to choose a reference point that may ultimately leave too much of a gap from the kerb to eliminate hitting it. Don´t be fooled into thinking the reverse parallel park has to be completed in one single perfect move. It´s better to adjust than hit the kerb as this may result in a test failure.

As you are slowly reversing, keep looking all around but also make frequent checks in your left mirror to assess:

- if your car is parallel from the kerb and a suitable distance from the kerb (around 30cm) to stop.

- if your car is too far from the kerb and needs adjusting

If you feel the car is a suitable distance from the kerb and do not need to adjust, just before you stop, steer your wheel to the left to straighten up the front wheels.

If you are too far from the kerb, then essentially you will need to adjust your line by pulling forward towards the kerb then straightening the wheels before reversing back in a straight line. Make sure you give good all-round-observation whilst you do this.

Once stopped, apply the handbrake and select neutral. There are potentially many reference points to remember in this manoeuvre. With a lot of practice you will remember them all and it will become easy.

Upon finishing parallel parking, if you there is a gap of a cars length or more between you and the target car that you parked behind, pull forward to decrease this gap. Ensure however that you leave sufficient room from the car in front so that you can move off (when the examiner says) without the need to reverse again.
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