Driving tests

20: Reverse parallel park

The aim of this lesson is for you to legally and safely reverse parallel park between two stationary vehicles. You’ll need to be driving in a 50kph zone on a road where there’s at least 50m of visibility in both directions and with a suitable place to park between two vehicles.

Before you attempt this the first time, read our article on parking as there’s a video explaining parallel parking. You can also practice this in an empty car park using cones.

Parallel parking is a skill that can take quite a lot of practice, so don’t be disheartened if you are not getting it straight away.

Driver actions

  • Driving along the road, indicate for at least three seconds before positioning your car next to the vehicle parked in front of the space you want to back into.
  • Continue to indicate, and search around for hazards in all your mirrors and by looking behind you and over your shoulders.
  • When it’s safe to go, begin reversing slowly. Turn the wheels left roughly when the rear of the vehicle next to you reaches the rear door of your car. When the rear of the car is into the parking space, turn the wheels back to the right to swing the front of your car into the space. Be careful of the front of your car, and don’t hit the kerb or the vehicle behind you.
  • Stop before you hit the vehicle behind you and adjust the car forwards so that it’s within 300mm of the kerb and with equal space front and back. If you need to, you are allowed to do one more reverse and one more forward manoeuvre to get the car positioned correctly.
  • Put the gearbox in neutral (manual) or park (automatic) and put the handbrake/park brake on.
  • After successfully parking, re-enter the traffic flow safely.

Perform the tasks at least twice.

There are situations in real driving where you might leave an unequal gap, especially if the space is either very big, or fairly tight. This won’t apply on your driving test, though.

Large spaces

If there are no marked parallel parking bays, parking equidistance between two vehicles parked some distance apart does not necessarily make the best use of the space. Park a normal distance from one of the vehicles, then when the other one leaves, perhaps two vehicles can fit in the resultant gap.

Small spaces

If a space is particularly small and tight you can judge whether the vehicle in front or behind you has an easier exit, and then leave them slightly less room. For example, if the vehicle in front of you is the first in the queue of parked vehicles, and therefore can simply drive forward out of the parking space without turning, parking closer to it than the vehicle behind reduces your risk of damage from the vehicle behind if it struggles to get out of the parking space. It also gives you more of a buffer because if the vehicle in front leaves and is replaced by another vehicle, that vehicle might park closer to you, thus reducing the tight space even further.

The risk to you is that the vehicle behind might leave before you and be replaced by another vehicle that closes the gap. Therefore you have to use your judgement.

Vehicles with towbars

If the vehicle in front has a towbar, it can be a good idea to leave it slightly more room because it is easier for the driver to misjudge the extra length and for the towbar to hit your car.

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