Being able to park well is an essential skill for any driver. It’s a great feeling when you’re able to nab that last spot on the street right outside your home, or by the entrance to the shop. But if you’re less confident at parking, you might find yourself forfeiting convenience in favour of an easier spot.
Whether you’re a beginner or could just do with a bit of a refresher, it could really help to read these top parking tips from UK road safety charity, IAM RoadSmart.
Take it nice and slow
One really important tip when it comes to parking is not to rush it.
Rebecca Ashton, head of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart, says: “The main thing with parking is to do it slowly. The slower you go, the less chance you've got of it going wrong; and you can stop and correct it before it does. Go slow, take your time. Make sure that you haven't got any other distractions. I turn down the radio when it comes to parking so I can concentrate fully.”
She adds: “Most parking mistakes are made when drivers are manoeuvring too fast. They misjudge things, and don’t take time to correct their steering.”
Approaching parking too quickly or carelessly might leave your car in an awkward position. But you should always try to fix any mistakes, especially if you’ve parked across the lines of a bay.
Rebecca advises: “I think a major error people make is that they don't correct themselves. They just leave the car as it is, even if it’s at a crooked angle. Or you might be up on the kerb – or even too far from it – after a parallel park. Never be shy about sorting it out and correcting it.”
Don’t feel pressured
Many drivers feel the watchful eye of other drivers and pedestrians when they try to park. But don’t rush because you think they’re getting impatient. Remember most drivers have had a difficult parking experience and being hasty is more likely to lead to mistakes.
“If you're going into a tight spot, don't feel embarrassed about getting out and having a look to make sure that you're okay,” says Rebecca. “And if you're not okay, get back in the car and adjust your position until it's right.”
Ask for help
Having other people around can often be a good thing. Rebecca says: “Never be afraid to get somebody to help. If you trust that person, and you need to be guided into a space, it's certainly not embarrassing to have somebody give you a little bit of a hand to guide you.”
“If you've got the help there, why not use it? Although you should make your own observations too,” she adds.
Choose the right spot
For new drivers in particular, it’s important to carefully choose a spot that won’t pose too much of a challenge.
Rebecca says: “If it's something that you're practicing or that you're unsure of, avoid busy places. Because even though people are quite happy to wait, when you're actually doing it and you're reverse parking perhaps with somebody there, you feel extra pressure. Try to choose a quiet location to practice in.”
Parallel park like a pro
Drivers needn’t find parallel parking daunting. It’s a necessary part of driving, and there’s bound to be some trial and error.
“With parallel parking, a lot of it does depend on the vehicle that you're in. But make sure that your space is big enough for your vehicle,” says Rebecca. “As you go past the space, always have a quick check that you're definitely going to get in there okay, and then just take it nice and slowly. Make sure you’re observing all around the car.’’
She adds that you might need to move backwards and forwards a bit to get in the right position, which is fine.
A final tip on parallel parking from Rebecca: “Observation is key when you're parallel parking. Make sure that you're constantly looking around, because somebody might not be patient, and they might not wait. If you've got an impatient driver nearby, you need to clock them and be aware of what they're doing.”
As well as parking confidently, you also want to ensure you park legally. See our guide to parking fines to make sure you know and stick to the rules.
Hopefully these tips will help you build your parking confidence. With a bit of practice, you could find yourself easily steering into the tightest of spots.