Stage 2: Parallel Parking

There’s a good chance that you may reverse more times in a day than you parallel park in an entire month. But, for some reason, parents tend to become obsessed with teaching parallel parking. And we empathize completely.

For many parents, parallel parking was their roadblock to passing the behind-the-wheel test. And yes, parallel parking is important. Just make sure that you don’t lose focus of all the other important driving tasks your teen needs to learn. All we’re asking is that you keep parallel parking in perspective.

Yes, most states require you to parallel park in order to pass the behind-the-wheel test. However, that test doesn’t require you to merge onto a highway. Passing the behind-the-wheel test and passing real world driving tests are two very different things. Your job as a teacher is to prepare your teen for both.

This article is designed to help you practice parallel parking. A separate article discusses the step-by-step procedure of how to parallel park.

Start by using your imagination

At first, you’ll want to work in an empty parking lot and simply imagine that there are other cars around. Parallel parking is difficult to master and cannot be learned without making a few mistakes. So, to minimize your teen’s fear as well as damage to other cars, you’ll have to do a little pretending.

Practice with cones or two rows of perpendicular parking spots

In order to create your imaginary parallel parking space, you can either use cones or two rows of perpendicular parking spots. We favor cones only because many behind-the-wheel tests are administered with cones. Practicing with cones may help familiarize your teen with the testing environment.

Using perpendicular parking spots is easy, too. Simply use two spots which are kitty-corner to each other. You’ll pull into the spot which is in the further ahead row and be backing into the spot that is behind and to the right of your starting position.

Much of the added fear and frustration of parallel parking is due to the crowded street on which you’re inevitable attempting the maneuver. Not only do you have to worry about the cars behind you (that may become impatient and pass you on the left), you may also have to worry about oncoming traffic. When your front end swings out to the left, it may cross into the lane of oncoming traffic. Oh, yeah, and you have to worry about pulling into your space without hitting the curb or the cars to your front and rear.

In the risk-free environment of the parking lot, you can’t simulate this. But, you still must reassure your teen that following all of the steps that guarantee your car has an unobstructed path to the parking space will help them later on when things get really dicey.

Parents: Get out of the car! You should be standing outside of the car and guiding your teen into the space. They are going to make many mistakes in terms of how much to turn the wheel. As soon as they’re about to hit the imaginary car, stop them and have them start over again.

Practice the following procedure:

  • Pull into the space above and to the left of the target space.
  • Check mirrors to ensure there are no cars directly behind you.
  • Using only the brake to control speed, begin backing into the target space. Turn the wheel hard to the direction of the target space.
  • At the “entry point”, crank the wheel back in the opposite direction and continue sliding into the parking space.
    • There must be 10,000 different ways to determine the magic point at which you reverse the wheel in order to gracefully slide into your target space. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. But, ask five different people or even five different driving instructors and they’ll give you five different ways to determine the location of this point. At, we prefer the following method:
      • The entry point is when the back of your front door is lined up with the rear bumper of the car you’re parking behind.
  • Straighten out your wheels and center your car in the space.

Move on to the real thing

Once your teen is sufficiently bored with parallel parking in this imaginary scenario and wants to work with real cars, go ahead and move on to the real thing.

What? NO! You didn’t seriously think that we would recommend letting your teen dictate the pace of the instruction, did you? Only after you’re satisfied that they’re not going to wipe out any real cars, then you can move on.

Your teen is going to have a tendency to want to move on after they’ve successfully parked once. Make them prove it several times during several practice sessions. Only then should you move on.

Drive to a residential neighborhood

Find large empty spots (several car lengths long) along a residential street with which your teen can practice parallel parking. As they show more and more confidence, move to different, smaller spots.

At some point, you’ll need to find a spot where cars are located both ahead and behind the target spot.

Here are a few practice pointers:

  • When you find your spot, activate your turn signal and pull up alongside the car you’ll be parking in front of. This communicates to other drivers that you’re about to park. Do not stop next to the car in front of your target space. If you do this, drivers behind you may not give you any room with which to reverse.
  • Just as when you were practicing in the parking lot, parents should hop out of the car and help guide your teen when appropriate.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop and try again! Sometimes seasoned drivers require multiple attempts to successfully parallel park. If cars behind you are becoming impatient, that’s their problem. If they become extremely irritated, you can always waive them past you.
  • Be aware of all of the space around the car. When confronted with “real world” parallel parking, some new drivers become fixated on the area behind their car (which is understandable). However, when parallel parking, the front end of the car swings far out into the street. You must be aware of oncoming traffic and cars from behind that may try to pass you.

Check out our other article on how to parallel park which includes step-by-step parallel parking procedure.

Continue on to Changing Direction by Reversing on Streets

All information and advice contained within this website is to be taken at your own risk. Nothing contained within this website should be misconstrued as professional driving instruction.