Manoeuvres: Reverse Parking

Many learners come to our driving school just wanting to learn how to reverse park. It is seen as the pinnacle of driving skill. It is a complex manoeuvre, however, you are unlikely to hurt anyone too badly by not performing it well.

The reasons that it is difficult to teach the reverse park for most supervisors is that they are at the unconscious competence(habit) level of skill ie they just do it. What most learners don’t realise is there are several skills that must be mastered before reverse parking can be attempted. If we try to do reverse parks before these skills are mastered then frustration is what you will be practicing!

Before we can reverse park we need to be proficient in the use of:

  • Accelerator and brakes
  • The gears
  • The clutch
  • Starting and stopping the car
  • Hand over hand steering technique
  • Blind spots
  • To and from the kerb
  • Slow moving forward
  • Up hill starts
  • Down hill starts
  • Reversing
  • Slow speed control
  • Road signs and markings

The key to doing a successful reverse park

Once we are proficient with the above list of competencies then reverse parking can be relatively simple, we just need to identify a couple of key points on the vehicle to turn in and turn away again. Our trainers know exactly where these points are.

Whenever you are setting up a reference point, use the rear corner closest to you of the vehicle you are parking behind. Any method that references the steering wheel or any other point on the other car is floored, not all cars are created equal! The main thing to remember when we are practicing is to keep the vehicle moving slowly as possible and the steering moving as quickly as possible. Over time the learner will get faster and more unconscious of the process until ultimately they are not thinking at all about the process.

The other thing to make sure to practice is how to fix a park that goes bad, eg we are further from the kerb than we hoped. In these situations we need to work on getting the rear wheels closer to the kerb. Think of this process like doing a mini reverse park. This skill will be useful when getting into parks that are only just big enough for the car to fit. If we find ourselves at too higher an angle and too close to the kerb and too close to another vehicle then the only option is to start again.

What level do we need to be to say we are expert?

When we first start practicing we will be using either flat or slight uphill roads but how do we know we are ready for the real world? Many young people are going to make one of their first trips to the beach on a nice summer day. This will involve a tight reverse park on a steep hill with other cars waiting, people walking around and fish and chips shops full of spectators. Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to confidently park up in this situation!