Ponderings on driver’s education.

I think I’ve mentioned that Courtney has been going through driver’s education as of late. Her course is in two parts between which she’s supposed to get 30 hours of time behind the wheel and, because I do most of the driving in the family, it was decided that I would be the one taking her out for experience. This is a big change from what I went through some 24 years ago where we got all our required hours of driving in the class itself. One of the things they said she should practice during these 30 hours is parallel parking. We’re some 20 hours along and I’ve yet to have her practice that as of yet simply because I’ve not figured out how to go about it in a way that doesn’t put any vehicles in danger of being banged up.

I don’t recall parallel parking being a heavy topic in my driver’s ed class. Of course during my time instruction was provided by the school system whereas we had to hire a company for Courtney’s classes. The school had a bunch of old beaters they kept on hand for practice and we spent a good deal of our time safe in a parking lot at the school that had lines and such painted on it for just this purpose. I think they had us try parallel parking a couple of times and then it was more or less glossed over. Oddly enough I’m actually quite good at parallel parking despite the lack of training in my youth and have found myself doing it fairly regularly with the trips over to the library when I’m on-call at work. I’ve probably parallel parked more in the last couple of months than at anytime in my life.

Anyway, as I was saying, I’m trying to figure out how to do it in a way that not only doesn’t tie up a street someplace, but doesn’t put the car (or anyone else’s) at risk. Someone suggested getting some traffic cones and going to a school parking lot on the weekend, but it can be hard to see the cones on the ground making it harder than it should be. I thought about maybe hauling some cardboard boxes out and using those as poor approximations of parked vehicles. Then I thought I have this large readership base and some of them must have kids that have gone through this exact same process so I’ll just ask you guys.

How would you go about teaching someone to parallel park?

22 thoughts on “Ponderings on driver’s education.

  1. Get two trash cans made of plastic spaced however far apart you want against a curb. Either in a deserted parking lot or outside on your driveway or street.

  2. There are many driving schools which maintain “coned” parking lots for the parking test. The cones are laid out exactly how they are for the official test. Call up some schools and ask when and where these “coned” practice lots are. That’s where I practiced.

  3. With a toy car that lets you turn the steering wheel. 

    My drivers’ ed instructor used to tape a $5 bill on the ground and tell us we could keep it if we could completely cover it with our right-front tire. It was not an expensive challenge for him – nobody could do it.  I advocate the game of running over drink cups and plastic bottles when you see them in parking lots.  Before long you know exactly where your wheels are.

    Hah!  If he came back from the grave and gave me that challenge NOW I’d have his five dollars.

  4. Just steal some traffic barrels from a local construction site and do it in the street.  You might also pay some local bums to sit in the line of fire.

    Or you could just forget the whole thing and do it like they did it when I was a kid.  Go take the written test for a permit.  Get in the car and learn to put the hood ornament on the white line.  Go to take the driving test which consists of driving down to the stockyard, turning around in the parking lot, and going back to the local county jail.  Get shiny new license and get a speeding ticket the first week.

  5. I did all of my practicing years ago in an empty downtown of a nearby small town, the high school parking lot, and the local college campus on weekend afternoons when there weren’t many classes. We tried it on the military base nearby too, but all of the good practice spaces where either actually on the street or too close to the flight line lend themselves to conversation and critique.

  6. I used to take my son out to a church parking lot during the week. Lots of space and usually empty if you avoid the nighttime. Afternoons Monday through Saturday and things were fine, especially at the far end where you usually have bigger areas away from the actual driveway and can see anyone coming in. Usually the whole lot will be curbed besides.

  7. In Britain we don’t have drivers ed in schools. Nearly everybody learns on public roads (there are some residential courses that teach you in a week that I believe have their own private roads).  Driving Instructors almost always have ‘dual controls’ which are clutch and brake in the passenger side.

    Parallel parking is practiced in quiet side roads.  There is no need to have a gap between two cars, you just have to get in behind one car by reversing.

    My dad taught me to drive before the legal age here (17) by taking me to a car park at a local parkland on days it was unused (ie off the public highway) and taught me the basics of clutch control.  When I was 17 he took me on the public roads.  I started professional lessons at 22 when I started work, practicing with my dad (an occasionally my mum) in my mum’s car (Ford Capri- looked cool, but heavy and no power steering).

    If there are no quiet roads near you try a public carpark (not a multi-storey, one that is open).  Is the school car park accessable at week ends?

  8. Interesting suggestions so far. Keep ‘em coming.

    Joey, I haven’t owned a car with a hood ornament in ages.

    LH, drivers ed here in the states is much as you describe it these days. The car Courtney first drove was a modified Chevy Cavalier with a brake on the passenger side for the instructor.

  9. Just so you know, I displayed NO talent for teaching my own kids, hence my suggestion of the toy car.  I tried to teach MrsDoF to drive a clutch.  Finally got out of the car and walked home (a couple miles) in frustration.  She figured it out and got the car home later.  Today she can handle a clutch as well as anyone.

  10. My Dad put a couple 2 x 4 boards stood up in a bucket full of sand and spaced them correctly far apart in a parking lot.
    He might have painted the tops of the board yellow or something.
    Maybe they were pipes?
    and he had a tape measure and a folding chair

    I got disoriented trying to parallel park against the curb while the lines were painted vertical.

    After the first time I knocked over the bucket and we had to scoop up the sand, he put lids on the buckets and cut a hole for the board. 

    I can’t remember any more details.  It’s been, oh dear, 35 years.

  11. Finally got out of the car and walked home (a couple miles) in frustration.  She figured it out and got the car home later.

    Wow that was funny! On second thought that was probably a great learning opportunity for the driver.

  12. Learning opportunity = Yeah, uh huh.

    What I remember is the jolting of the car and my baby son giggling while safely strapped into his car seat.
    Nothing quite like getting laughed at by a 1 year old when I’d been driving for years.
    Good thing we were on a country road.  I put on the flashers so the 3 cars that came along went on around.

    The man walking made it home before the car did.

  13. I taught my son and my niece in a car wash parking lot.  There were plastic trash cans there near a curb (used for trash out of cars) that they parked between, and if they hit them, it didn’t really harm anything.  However, it got them used to having to parallel park without hitting what’s in front of them or behind them.

    You could pretty much do the same thing in any good sized parking lot which isn’t busy; just take the trash cans along if you need to do so.

  14. My father taught me how to parallel park up at the High School by positioning two dumpsters as if they were cars I needed to park between. Since the dumpsters were roughly like cars in size, it worked out pretty well.

  15. My mother (Dad lacks patience) taught me to drive.  When we got to parallel parking we used cones from soccer practice in both a church parking lot and a new development where no homes were ready yet.  She laid out the cones

    x   x park x   x

    like that so that the cones represented the front and back of a car.  I feel like it worked well.

  16. Go to a church and have devout Christians stand where the cars should be.  If they get nervous, tell them to have faith.

  17. Start with something more visible like rubber trashcans or cardboard boxes.  Something crashable, but visible.  End with what she’ll face at the driving test (cones, painted lines – put down masking tape). 

    Best would be rubber trashcans that are hood height, since that’ll help with the not being able to see the front end of what’s behind you, and will let you know when you mess up.

    My driver’s ed was cones on the track.  Coach pointed to them and said, “That’s a Mercedes, that’s a Porsche.  You gotta put that,” pointing to our Chevy econobox, “piece of shit between them.”  Never did come up on the driving test, though.  Damn good thing too, b/c I took it in my mom’s Lincoln Grand Marquis.  Oh, we did driver’s ed in pairs, so one of us had to stand at the back cone while the other parked.


    Long time no read bro. Got your link back in action after sifting through some old pages to find who Ive forgotten in recent redesigns. Crazy how our sites have changed since the beginning eh ?


  19. I agree with and like Hussar’s suggestion. No car to the rear, just park behind one in front. This can be done anywhere another car is parked by its’ lonesome. 

    The ‘cues’ I was taught:

    Rear wheels (your car-the already parked one) even…this means front doors even with each other in most cases—with the cars parallel about three feet apart.

    Into reverse and wheel incrementally turned to the right all the way by the time the rear of your front door is even with the rear wheel of the other car. Straighten wheels, continue to reverse slowly-start to turn wheels to left when your front fender starts passing their rear fender, going to full lock as your fender passes their rear bumper.

  20. I just did this last week.

    Space out garbage cans down your driveway, or some little stretch of pavement.  They’re big enough to see, and won’t ding up your car too bad.

  21. When I had to go for driving lessons, about a year, year and a half ago the instructor had four plastic cones with broom handles stuck through the middle. He would put them where the headlights and tail lights would be for the cars and I would have to park between them without going in between or hitting them. This was practiced on a quiet dead end road. It was quite helpful and I passed the test just fine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.