Posted by: safedriver | May 10, 2011

Parallel or paranoid…you decide

What are some of the toughest things and most frightening things that drivers do? You may be thinking of merging onto the freeway, but that’s not it. You may be thinking of driving in heavy traffic, but that’s not it. I’m referring to the dreaded parallel park, or, as some people refer to it; the “paranoid” park. Can you do it smoothly or do you avoid doing it completely?

I recently watched a driver spend over 5 minutes trying to get into a space that should have taken her little time at all. The first mistake was that she attempted to drive in forward to the space. That caused her to scuff her front tire and rim against the curb. It also left the driver’s side rear of her vehicle sitting out in traffic at a 30° angle. Not a good angle considering she was trying to park on a fairly busy road. This attempt ended up blocking traffic and also put her vehicle at risk of getting clipped.

She then decided to move her vehicle back and forth in the space to attempt to get closer to the curb. After more than 5 minutes, she got there; but not without damage to her tires and steering mechanism. It sure would have been easier for her, and her vehicle, if she backed into the space, but maybe she didn’t know why it’s preferred to back into a parallel parking space.

Since the front wheels do the steering, it’s a lot easier to back the vehicle into a space and then have the front of the vehicle swing into the space to become parallel to the curb. It can really become an easy maneuver, provided you learn the basic steps. As a judge on Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery for their first 3 seasons, I was able to teach each of the participants how to parallel park successfully. If they can do it properly, why can’t you?

There are a variety of ways to do a parallel park, so you’ll have to find a way that best suits your style of driving. The main thing is to reverse into the space until your vehicle is roughly at a 45° angle, or half way in, and then begin steering the opposite direction until the front of your vehicle swings in line and is parallel with the curb. You have a choice of straightening your wheels as you get parallel, or wait and do that as you pull forward to evenly space your vehicle between the two vehicles. You can make that choice.

Learn the skills you need to be able to successfully parallel park. Practice those skills to make it into a habit. After that, it won’t be a “paranoid” park any longer.

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