What part of driving gives you the most anxiety? High-speed freeway merges? Being sandwiched between a semi and the guardrail?
If you immediately thought of parallel parking, you’re not alone. For many drivers, it’s the very thought of parallel parking that creates an, ahem, unparalleled sense of anxiety (see what I did there?).
In my experience, that anxiety comes in 2 stages. First, there’s the guilt of knowing I’m about to hold up 14 cars so I can put my car in reverse and back into a space. And then there’s the fear of getting the angle wrong and having to pull out to do the whole thing over … again.
Which leads me to the second stage of anxiety, that nagging thought of, “What if I hit one of these cars?” In no time, I can go from confident driver to feeling like I’m taking my driving test all over again. (In front of several angry strangers. And they’re all honking. Ugh.)
But it doesn’t have to be so bad. Here’s a brief parallel parking refresher to help ratchet down whatever anxieties creep up the next time you see the perfect spot at the last minute.
8 easy steps to parallel parking
- The space itself. You’re looking for a space that’s at least 4 feet longer than your vehicle. Trying to cram your car into something smaller can lead to dents and scrapes.
- The turn signal. Use it before you start backing in so the 14 cars behind you know the score.
- Align your vehicle with the one in front of the space. Make sure there’s at least 2 feet between you to avoid scraping.
- Look behind you. Don’t just rely on your review mirror. Turn your whole body and head to ensure nothing’s in your blind spot.
- Make the move. Once you know the path is clear, back up slowly while turning the wheel toward the curb.
- Turn the wheel in the other direction. When your front seat reaches the rear bumper of the other vehicle, turn the wheel in the opposite direction to begin straightening out.
- Straighten out. As you slowly back in, your vehicle should wind up about 6 inches from the curb.
- Final adjustments. Shift backward or forward as needed to give the vehicles around you enough room to get out.
Remember: don’t rush or get upset if you don’t nail it on the first try. Even the most experienced drivers don’t get it right every time. It’s usually easier to start over than attempt to fix a wonky angle. Besides, those cars behind you can wait a few more seconds — they’ve probably had their own share of parallel parking flubs.
Get all sorts of driving tips with our how-to video series
Think parallel parking is bad? Check out 7 of the most humiliating driving mistakes.