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!

How to make your testing officer feel comfortable

driver and trainer
The Aim of the Test
Learner drivers usually hear stories from their friends on what the driving test is going to be like and advice about what to do. Some of this is true, most is not.
During the driving test, the learner driver’s aim is to make the testing officer feel comfortable, that is, they feel safe in the car with you.
Setting off in a controlled manner and driving confidently right from the outset will make the testing officer more relaxed.
Generally, if the testing officer is chatting with the learner driver, this is a sign that they feel confident. If they are using the grab handles then they might not be feeling so comfortable!
 
Appearance Counts
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The test starts before the learner driver gets into the car. The learner driver wants to make a good first impression to the testing officer.
Follow these points:

  • Don’t be late
  • Be neat and tidy
  • Smile
  • Have all paperwork sorted out and neat (look after your logbook)
  • Have a clean car parked in the correct location
  • Know how to operate the indicators and brake lights without the engine running

 
How to drive during the test
Be seen
We have heard from some students that they have been advised to drive 15 km/h below the speed limit. This is not a good idea, it will make the testing officer question the learner driver’s ability. It is best to drive with the flow traffic up to the speed limit unless there is reduced space or vision, then slow down as required.
You may hear stories that everyone fails for head checks or blind spots. While this is often true, the solution is not to look like a laughing clown at Luna Park while driving. You need to understand what you are looking at, then you can check the appropriate blind spot, the traffic and do observation checks for the situations presented. Testing officers are onto people who are looking just for show and will be really picky about observation errors for these applicants.
Learner drivers need to make safe decisions. We have all been in the situation of waiting to do a right-hand turn onto a busy road waiting for a gap (high risk of accident). This will be on the test too. You cannot be swayed by the aggressive driver four cars back honking the horn. If there isn’t an appropriate gap, then wait till one comes along. The testing officer would prefer the driver to wait for a safe gap than have a go at a gap that is not big enough. Remaining calm in this situation will show the testing officer maturity in your driving.
Sometimes things go wrong on the driving test. The car might be stalled or your reverse parking may be botched. Remember these two things – the testing officer is human, they might not have noticed the mistake and it is OK to make a couple of errors, often they are not marked as harshly as you might think.
It is most important the learner driver does not give up after the first mistake. Just take a deep breath, relax the grip on the wheel and carry on.
 
Getting Results
Thanking the testing officer regardless of the result will put them in a better mood for the next applicant!
If you are not successful on their first attempt, don’t argue with the testing officer about the result. There is every chance that you will end up with the same testing officer in the next attempt. That will make for a very quiet drive…