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Parallel parking proves problematic for drivers

Blue car parking signParallel parking proves so problematic that one in 10 motorists avoid the manoeuvre altogether, according to new research.

Once they've torn up their L-plates it's assumed that drivers can cope with any aspect of motoring, from motorways to managing icy roads.

It's certainly not admitted that some motorists may go on to struggle with such a mundane aspect of driving as being able to parallel park – but new research reveals that many do.

Car insurance specialist found that 10 per centof motorists avoid parallel parking altogether while 21 per cent rarely or never attempt the manoeuvre.

And 58 per cent of motorists admit attempting to parallel park but giving up and driving off after not being able to manoeuvre their car into a space.

Practice makes perfect

"One important aspect of parallel parking is practice," says driving instructor Peter Skelton of the Peter Skelton Driving School in Berkshire.

"I used to live in London and having to squeeze into tight spaces on a daily basis meant I really had to sharpen up my skills.

"I find that people who live in cities are often good at parallel parking, whereas those who live in rural or suburban areas where there is lots of parking space may have become rusty."

Many older motorists may never have been properly taught to parallel park as parking manoeuvres didn't become part of the driving test until 1991.

Younger drivers avoid parallel parking

However, the research revealed that while motorists aged over 45 are least likely to avoid attempting the move.

Whereas young drivers have the hardest time parallel parking, despite being the age group most likely to have been taught the manoeuvre while learning to drive. surveyed 2,000 motorists and found 18- to 24-year-olds are most likely to avoid parallel parking out of all age groups.

And almost a third - 29 per cent - of drivers in this age group rarely or never parallel park.

Skelton says: "Maybe some older drivers are motivated to get into available spaces because they don't like walking or carrying shopping bags for long distances, whereas that doesn't bother younger people so much."

Time taken to park

Drivers will spend an average of four minutes attempting to get into a space before giving up, the survey found. 

But 14 per cent will spend between five and 15 minutes, while 1 per cent will spend more than 30 minutes attempting to park their car.

Some resort to getting someone else to park the car for them - 59 per cent admitted asking their spouse or partner, 37 per cent a friend or relative and 4 per cent a complete stranger.

Skelton says: "It's much better to take the time to learn to parallel park confidently rather than deal with stress about whether or not you'll be able to find a space to drive into.

Parking refresher

"One option is to book a refresher lesson – there's no need to be embarrassed about asking for help.

"Alternatively, why not go to a deserted area such as an industrial estate car park at the weekend, mark out car spaces with cones and practice there?"

Besides the inconvenience and embarrassment of struggling with parking, a lack of skill in this area could mean you end up damaging someone else's car.

Car park prangs

Research by revealed that careless car parking has caused £1.3 billion worth of damage in the past year though vehicles being scraped or pranged by careless manoeuvres.

Two out of three drivers involved in these accidents blame them on the small size of parking bays, and the fact that family cars are getting bigger whilst parking bay sizes have remained the same.

What's more, one in five drivers admit to being "prang and runners" – damaging another car and driving off without leaving their insurance details. 

Gareth Kloet, head of car insurance at says motorists need to exercise car parking etiquette.

He adds: "Motorists should be extra vigilant in car parks, taking into account the size of our cars compared to the average size of parking spaces."

Video: Park like a pro has produced a video guide to parking like a pro.

Watch as TV presenter Tim Shaw pits himself against two self-confessed "bad parkers" (and no, they're not both women!) in a car parking challenge.

And stunt driver and double British Autotest car control champion Alastair Moffat shows how it should be done.


What do you think?

Parallel parking has been the undoing of many a good driver. Is it a dying skill and would you take a parking refresher course if you had problems with this manoeuvre?

We want to hear from you! Tell us your parallel parking tales.

You can share your views on the message board below.

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy

Maria McCarthy is a motoring and lifestyle journalist and author of The Girls' Car Handbook and The Girls' Guide to Losing your L Plates published by Simon and Schuster. She's also a regular on BBC Breakfast news, and local and national radio, commenting on motoring matters. Her pet motoring hates are potholes and high fuel prices.

View more from Maria

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