We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Is parallel parking really that important?

By Steve Wallace, The Province, August 17, 2012

My previous column concerning the dubious merits of parallel parking on a driver’s test resulted in sever-al responses worth noting.

A former driving instructor liked to teach and observe students while they parallel parked. It gave him a good idea of the care and control each student demonstrated in confined spaces. Backing speed and timing always helped this instructor teach new drivers the most elementary turning dynamics of the average vehicle.

Another professional driver made fun of the whole parallel-parking skill demonstration on a driving test. His comment, in the form of a question, was both sarcastic and insightful. He wanted to know how many people had been killed as a result of a parallel-parking procedure. He maintains (tongue-in-cheek) that he has never read a headline that stated: “9 people killed in parallel-parking mayhem.” Almost every professional driver I have ever talked with wishes the driving tests would emphasize fatal-crash prevention instead of the elementary procedure called parallel parking.

Several respondents agreed with my mother’s lifelong aversion to parallel parking. She did it on her driving test when she was in her early 20s and never did it again as long as she lived. It was always an option she declined to employ. She drove crashfree for life.

Other readers made very interesting observations. The parking act was described as an obvious mandatory skill that should be demonstrated on every driving test. But the suggestion from one reader was very creative and logical. She maintained all types of parking choices (angle, front, back, parallel and pullover) should be offered to each candidate on the test. The candidate could choose three of the options to perform on the test.

Another idea was insightful and contrary to my criticism of the mandatory parallel park. The responder reminded me 80 per cent of the Canadian population lives in an urban environment and space is at a premium. Being able to effectively and efficiently parallel park is an asset every driver should possess. We should have experienced parkers on the road, the writer said, not the faint-of-heart.

One young student driver maintained the entire parallel parking discussion was academic.

Many modern vehicles come equipped with a “park-assist function.” The vehicle parks itself. It does all the turning and calculating of the angles and dimensions needed to place a vehicle safely and snugly in the parking space. The driver still must monitor the speed of the vehicle by manipulating the brake pedal while parking. Technology rules!

Parallel parking as a demonstrated skill on a driver’s test may well become passé, if it is not so already.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Central Interior. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas and a certified teacher. Contact him at stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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