How to parallel park on the side of the road

Parallel parking manoeuvre diagram.

Published 9 April 2021
Last updated 12 April 2021

Learn how to parallel park on the side of the road. Get top tips on using the brakes, clutch and steering lock for parallel parking success.

From time to time, we get asked to write blogs on specific themes. Recently, for example, we explored the murky world of mini-roundabouts. This week, we’ve picked out some messages from the Safe Driving for Life postbag and it seems a number of you would like to know more about parallel parking.

A life in reverse

So what is it? Basically, parallel parking takes advantage of your vehicle’s ability to manoeuvre into tight spaces in reverse gear. It’s a really useful technique to get the hang of – particularly when you’re in town and looking for somewhere to park.

Before we begin, there are two rules to add to your ‘Really Important Rule’ book:

Really important rules

  • When you’re attempting to parallel park, you may become a hazard to other drivers, so make sure you maintain good levels of observation and do not start the manoeuvre until you’re sure that it’s safe.
  • To give yourself a fighting chance of completing the manoeuvre successfully, choose a gap that you’re sure your car will fit into – to be on the safe side, let’s say about one-and-a-half times the length of your vehicle.

Once you’re sure it’s clear and there’s enough room for your car, follow these steps for parallel parking success:

  1. Stop your vehicle reasonably close to, and parallel with, the parked vehicle ahead of the gap. Your vehicle should be about level with, or slightly ahead of, the parked vehicle.
  2. Apply the parking brake if necessary.
  3. Show your brake lights by pressing the footbrake, then select reverse gear. Your reversing lights will warn other people of your intentions. Check all around.
  4. Bring the clutch up to biting point and, if it’s still safe to move, release the parking brake if you applied it.
  5. Ease the clutch pedal up just enough to start to move, keeping it steady at, or just above, the biting point.
  6. Depending on whether the space is on the left-hand or right-hand side of the road (and which way your vehicle is facing), you’ll need to get your steering wheel on either left- or right-hand lock.
  7. Reverse slowly, but watch the corner of the parked vehicle. Make sure you do not forget to look round as you begin to reverse into the space (the front of your vehicle could swing into the path of passing traffic).
  8. Straighten up and keep a careful eye on the position of your vehicle – there’s a danger of ‘clipping’ the vehicle in front at this point.
  9. When you’re sure that the front of your vehicle is clear of the parked vehicle, use enough lock (left or right, depending on which side of the road you’re on) to gradually bring your vehicle parallel with, and close to, the nearside kerb.
  10. Straighten up by taking the lock off and adjust the position of your vehicle as necessary.
  11. If your car has reverse sensors, they'll be beeping at you as you approach the car behind. Often the beeps change in tone and frequency the closer you get. You may need to ignore the early warning sounds, but do take notice of the critical ones that are very close together.

If you cannot see clearly, follow the advice in Rule 202 of The Highway Code and get someone to guide you into position.

Reverse psychology

Of course, practice is the key to improving any skill, so try not to put yourself under too much pressure to get it right first time. Start by picking a quiet street and reversing behind one car only, then gradually build up to parking between two cars once you’re feeling more confident.

For more official DVSA advice about improving your driving skills, head over to the Safe Driving for Life shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.

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