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“There’s a spot,” I said to my friend who was driving us to a dinner engagement.

“Nope. Too small. I’ll find one at the end of the street,” she said as she drove her Jeep Wrangler past a perfect spot along the curb near the restaurant. “I confess. I can’t parallel park this beast.”

She’s not alone. Ask a cluster of teenagers what the most nerve-wracking part of their driving exam was, and they’ll instantly stop texting to answer, “parallel parking.”

It’s true, it’s a manoeuvre that takes skill, confidence, patience and an understanding of the length of your car. All it takes to master it is some practice.

To remind you how to parallel park or help the teenager gain confidence, on a quiet day drag your giant recycle bins out to the road. Place them three metres from the curb with six metres between them to represent a standard parallel parking space. If there isn’t a quiet road, head to the very end of a parking lot with pylons or find some shopping carts to borrow to use as guides.

Jump in behind the wheel and follow these steps.

  • Drive along until you find a parking spot that is at least half as long as your vehicle.
  • Signal that you are going to park.
  • Drive alongside the parked vehicle in front of the space leaving about one metre between it and your vehicle. Stop when your rear bumper is in line with the parked vehicle. (In this case, it’s the end of your compost bin)
  • Slowly, start to back up. When you see that your back wheel is in line with the parked cars’ bumper, crank the steering wheel to turn the rear of your car into the space. (Turn the steering wheel clockwise so you are moving on a 45-degree angle.) Continually monitor the front of your car and the obstacles.
  • When the right front of your vehicle has cleared the bumper of the vehicle in front of you, start to slowly straighten your vehicle (turn the steering wheel counter-clockwise) and slowly move into the spot. You may need to move back and forth to get closer to the curb, but that is fine. It gives you the opportunity to centre your vehicle in the space.

Do’s and don’ts

Don’t crowd the car in front or behind you. Do leave space so that all three of you have room to manoeuvre away from the curb.

Remember, it’s a skill that can get dusty, so force yourself to do it. Or buy a car with Active Park Assist – but that won’t help your teenager pass their driving exam.

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