Parallel parking has a bad reputation. New drivers often dread this part of their driving exam, and even many seasoned drivers avoid it whenever possible. However, parallel parking is a necessary part of life in many communities. If you don't want to spend time walking further than necessary or paying to park, street parking is often your only choice. Even when there are other options, once you become comfortable parallel parking, it may become your first choice. The allure of pulling right in to the curb in front of your destination is hard to ignore.
The key to seamlessly swinging into a parking spot on your first try is in the way you approach the spot. Too many people try to head into the parking space nose-first, but this is a recipe for failure. Another common problem is not pulling up far enough before backing in. Pull up until your rear tires are even with the rear tires of the car you will park behind.
Use your blinker to indicate you plan to park as you approach the space. Hopefully, the traffic behind you realizes you are parking, but it is important to double-check.
From your position alongside the car you will park behind, look in the rearview mirror to see what traffic is doing. Most considerate drivers will stop to allow you to park, switching lanes if possible. If the person behind you is crowding the spot and can't go around, you may have to circle the block.
Entering the parking spot at a good angle is what allows you to nail parallel parking on the first approach. While stopped alongside the car you will park behind, turn your wheel all the way to the right. Looking behind you, begin to back up.
Once the middle of your car is in line with the bumper of the parked car, stop for a second, and straighten the wheel. Back up until the front of your car is clear of the vehicle in front. Stop again, and cut the wheel all the way to the left. This will bring the front end of your car into the spot as you continue backing up.
If a vehicle approaches you from behind as you are parking, stop where you are. Once they stop or switch lanes, you can resume the process. You do not need to pull out of the way. Keep your car in reverse and have your shoulders pivoted as you look behind you. This indicates to the oncoming driver exactly what you are doing, and let's them know you see them.
Don't forget about the car behind you as you back in. You want to be close enough to fit into the spot, but you don't want to back into their bumper or box them in. You know you are parked properly when you are centered in your spot, with between six and twelve inches between your front bumper and the car in front of you and your back bumper and the car behind you. Also make sure you're no more than a foot from the curb. Some cities ticket vehicles parked too far from the curb.
If you are in the spot crooked, with the front or back tires much closer to the curb or still out in the road, you can make adjustments. Take a moment to think about what you need to do before you start moving.
Much of the difficulty that comes from parallel parking is from feeling rushed due to traffic or the feeling others are watching you. If you run up on the curb or your car's front end is still in the roadway while the rest of the car is in the spot, it may be easier to pull all the way out of the spot and make a fresh approach.
No matter how confident you become at parallel parking, there are some basic requirements. You need a space that is about one and a half times the length of your vehicle. Too small a spot will create problems both getting into and out of the space. Even if you manage to squeeze into a tight spot, the person parked in front or behind you may be left in a difficult position when they try to leave.
Curbing your wheels, or turning them into the curb after you park, is a good safety precaution and a supplemental braking system. When your wheels are turned into the curb, if your car begins to roll forward, it won't go anywhere. While particularly handy when parking on hills, it is also beneficial if your car should be hit while in the parking spot. Curbing will help prevent your car from hitting the car in front of it or being knocked into the road. If you're parking on a hill, remember you need to turn the wheel a different direction if you're facing up the incline or down.
Learning to parallel park is a skill like any other. Don't expect to be able to whip into a tight spot when you are first learning. If you are uncomfortable parallel parking, there is nothing wrong with being picky about the spot you choose or turning down a less crowded street before parking. Don't be egged into doing something overly stressful by vehicles around you or you passengers.
No matter how much you dislike parallel parking, make yourself become competent with the process. Practicing until you are comfortable, and then occasionally choosing these spots even if there are other options, ensures that when the time comes and your choices are limited, you will be able to park quickly and easily.