A reverse parallel park is a manoeuvre you may be asked to complete during your practical driving test. During a reverse parallel park you will be assessed on your ability to position your vehicle legally, safely and accurately. This manoeuvre is quite complex and it is expected to happen at a slow pace, so you shouldn’t feel rushed when completing the park.
A reverse parallel park will be asked of you in a relatively flat location with a selection of other vehicles correctly parked close and parallel to the left side kerb with a clear kerbed space behind the selected vehicle next to which you must park. The request is also likely to occur in a low traffic area to minimise the chance that you will encounter vehicles as you try to complete the park. If vehicles are required to wait for you to complete the park, don’t feel pressured to hurry. The testing officer is concerned with legality, safety and accuracy, not speed.
There are many different methods that will allow you to successfully complete a reverse parallel park. It is recommended that you spend time with a professional driving instructor while accumulating your required supervised hours. This instructor will give you their own directions to complete a reverse parallel park. The steps described below are just one option for you to consider. The specific requirements of each park will depend on your vehicle, the slope of the road and the size of the gap. The most important thing is to get a lot of practice in the vehicle you will eventually be tested in so you can get a feel for the car’s positioning relative to nearby cars. This practice will allow you to complete the manoeuvre seamlessly in the practical driving test.
There are specific criteria that you must follow when completing a reverse parallel park in the practical driving test to ensure success.
If the below criteria are not met you will not immediately fail but they will contribute to your errors throughout the test that may eventually result in you not passing the test. You must:
- Park less than 50cm from the kerb
- Not touch the kerb with your wheels
- Be between 1-2 metres away from other vehicles
- Reverse only as far as you need
- Park as close as practical to the required angle and within any marked lines
- Use a maximum of 4 direction changes
- Signal for at least 5 seconds before leaving the kerb or a parked position
The below actions will result in an immediate fail. Although the test will continue (to allow you the full test experience) you will not pass if any of the following occur:
- One of more wheels mount the kerb
- The vehicle rolls back more than 50cm (500mm) from a stationary position
- The vehicle’s final parked position obstructs traffic
- You reverse more than 7 metres from the rear of the vehicle you are parking behind
In the practical driving test
During the test the testing officer will let you know that you will be required to do a reverse parallel park. They will always notify you with sufficient time and space to consider and complete the manoeuvre. They will say something like:
“We will be doing a reverse parallel park. Please park (this side of / behind) that parked car in a suitable position. Please tell me when you have finished parking the car.”
Depending on where cars are parked in the street chosen for the manoeuvre it is sometimes necessary to conduct the manoeuvre alongside driveways. If this is the case, your testing officer will say, “Please disregard the driveway”, and you may park in front of the relevant driveway without penalty.
After receiving the instruction to park, you should make sure you can safely stop beside the car and can legally park behind it. If safe and legal, indicate left for at least 3 seconds before you pull over, checking mirrors and both blind spots for hazards. Your indicator should remain on throughout the park.
When alongside the vehicle you’re parking behind, you should be parallel to the vehicle and between 50cm – 1m away from it with your passenger side door in line with its front wheel. The further away you are, the more difficult it is to swing the car into the park without hitting the kerb.
Before reversing, check your mirrors and both blind spots for hazards to ensure it’s safe to reverse. When safe, put the car into Reverse and slowly move backwards, remaining parallel until your back wheel (which is approximately in line with the end of your rear door’s window) is in line with the other vehicle’s rear bumper. At this point turn your wheel all the way to the left, continuing to slowly reverse without stopping.
When the front of your vehicle is clear of the rear of the vehicle in front, you can turn the wheel to the right and straighten into the park (your indicator will probably turn off at this point which is fine, you don’t need to turn it on again). You should aim to finish parallel to the kerb, within 50cm of the gutter, and within 1-2m from the car in front. To help with these criteria you’re allowed to change into First Gear or Drive to straighten the car and finish the park.
The turning reference points throughout the manoeuvre can be hard to judge. When first learning it is useful to have someone outside of the vehicle telling you when the relevant points are aligned so you can get an accurate understanding from inside the vehicle.
During the park you will likely need to use a combination of the rear window, rear side window and mirrors to look in the direction of travel as you back into the park. The required combination will vary depending on the park and your vehicle. Although you may use reversing cameras and sensors, you must still check mirrors and around your vehicle. Any park assist devices must be switched off for the reversing manoeuvres. Practicing will help you become comfortable with a combination that allows you to park successfully.
When the reverse parallel park is completed, put the car in Neutral or Park, apply the handbrake, and tell the testing officer you’ve completed the manoeuvre. When the testing officer is ready to continue, they will say something like:
“When you are ready, please continue driving down the street.”
At this point you should rejoin traffic as you would normally. Remember to indicate for at least 5 seconds, and check your mirrors and blind spot for hazards. If necessary, it’s acceptable to reverse a small amount to give yourself enough room to leave the kerb.
Practice makes perfect
When you first start practicing you should park behind a single car without a car behind you to restrict your space to park. As you begin to gain experience and confidence you can add the second car and try to park in smaller gaps so you’re ready for all situations on your test day.
Practicing this manoeuvre regularly before your test will ensure you can capably complete the park and are able to effectively manage the required controls (gears, clutch, brake, accelerator and indicator).
Video and game
The video below provides a great summary of the steps required to complete a reverse parallel park. Although recorded in New Zealand and designed for audiences there, it is a great visualisation of the process and requirements.
The same website that produces this video also has a simple flash game to help you understand the vehicle positioning required to successfully make the manoeuvre.