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Car Sense

How to Parallel Park Like a Pro

Will my car fit in that parking space?  How do I park without hitting the cars around me? I don’t have time for this!

If you’ve ever been forced to parallel park your vehicle, chances are these thoughts have crossed your mind. It’s sometimes an intimidating and frustrating task. And the potential for embarrassment can leave you wanting to just find somewhere else to park.

But in some cases, parallel parking may be necessary. And if you’re just learning how to drive, it may even be required to pass your driving test.

See also: What To Know About Teen Drivers and Auto Insurance

There are some self-parking cars on the market today that will do the job for you. However, they do come with a hefty price tag.  So, what’s the easy way to parallel park without taking too much time – or worse, causing a fender bender?

Follow these seven steps to help master the art of parallel parking:

How To Parallel Park

  1. Find a spot where parking is permitted. Check your local laws for specifics. In general, you’re usually not allowed to park on a sidewalk, crosswalk or bridge; in an intersection; or blocking a driveway or alley. You also can’t park too close to a fire hydrant or stop/yield sign, though the allowed distance tends to vary by state.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings. Use your turn signal before parking and make sure to check your mirrors before coming to a stop.
  3. Align your car. Pull up directly next to the vehicle that will be in front of you.
  4. Back up. First, check behind you again to make sure there are no pedestrians or oncoming cars. Then, begin back up while turning your wheel to the right. (Just make sure you don’t clip the vehicle in front of you.)
  5. Straighten it out. Once your front door passes the back bumper of the vehicle, straighten your wheels and keep backing up.
  6. Pull in tight. Turn your wheel sharply to the left when your vehicle is completely clear of the one ahead. Back up slowly until you reach the vehicle behind you.
  7. Center your vehicle. Turn your front wheels sharply to the right and center your vehicle in the parking spot.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. But follow these steps and with a little bit of practice, you’ll be well on your way to parallel parking like a pro.

One last tip: if you’re parking on an uphill, be sure to set your parking brake and turn your wheel to the left so your tires make contact with the curb. This will help protect your vehicle from going into oncoming traffic if anything goes wrong. If you're parked on a downhill, do the same but turn your wheel to the right (toward the curb).

Want more driving basics?

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At ERIE, we’re committed to giving you tips and guidance for safe, confident driving. Because the only thing better than a fast and easy claims process after an accident is avoiding accidents altogether. Contact an ERIE agent to make sure you’re protected for the road ahead. 

Editor's note: This story was updated on July 3, 2019, to clarify the direction of turning your wheels when parking on a hill.

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