New driver tips: parking best practice

Admit it, parking is probably one of the things that you look forward to least as a new driver, and if you’ve just passed your test and are worrying about reverse parking already, amongst other fears as you take to the road, you’re not alone! Whether you’re sharing a car with family members or are lucky enough to have your own vehicle, you need some top tips to help you to park safely and reduce the risk of damage to your car (and to other vehicles).

Park like a pro

So you already know all about driving safely once you’re moving, but what helps you to park safely?

Think about reversing

Next time you’re at a multi-storey car-park or shopping centre, consider reversing into that tight space rather than going in front-first; it doesn’t matter what kind of car your drive, from a Ford Fiesta to a 4×4. If you’re at the supermarket, you might want better access to the boot for groceries, but reversing in means you won’t need to back out into a potentially hard-to-see flow of moving traffic. Reverse parking close to a wall can also help deter thieves from stealing from your car boot. Remember that your car is easier to control when it’s moving forwards (emerging from a parking space after reversing in) and visibility is improved too.

Getting into a parking spot

Shelling out extra for parking sensors on your vehicle will help (if you can afford it), but you don’t need to use electric aids: the more you practice parking as a new and inexperienced driver, the more aware you will become of your car’s dimensions.

Angle your mirrors down so you can see the parking space lines or curb clearly, and remember that if you’re backing up, objects in the side mirrors are closer than they appear – always turn your head and check distance with your own eyes out of the back windscreen, moving very slowly and carefully. Once you’re aligned and out of any traffic flow, get out and check how much space you’ve actually got at either end of the car – it will help you get familiar with what the car dimensions and parking distances look like from inside.

Taking a friend or family member along to help you park in tight spots (such as within cities) is a good idea, until you gain confidence in your abilities. And remember, if parking on a street, check your mirrors and blind spot before opening your traffic-side door – you might hear cars but check for silent cyclists too.

Stop thieves in their tracks

Car crime may have dropped by 61% since 1995 (according to Home Office reports), but it’s still important to protect yourself against theft when parking your vehicle. Guarded, secured multi-storey or gated car parks are the best places to park your car, or choose a parking spot that’s overlooked by CCTV cameras. If you’re parking up overnight, a garage or private driveway is your best bet, but if that’s not possible, choose a parking space on a busy, well-lit road – it could go a long way to deterring thieves.

Don’t forget to stow valuables away or (ideally) remove them from your car – a sat nav, mobile phone, MP3 player or even a car stereo left in sight can often be enough to tempt thieves. Store shopping bags or handbags in the boot if you’re leaving them in your vehicle and make sure they’re out of sight under the parcel shelf. You might want to consider getting an immobiliser too, as cars with one fitted are up to ten times safer than those without.

Lastly, it might sound obvious, but don’t forget to lock your car! Keyless locking can make it easy to forget to secure your vehicle before you head off to work or into town, and if you’re in a hurry, you could make your car a potential target for thieves and vandals.

Play by the rules

The bane of any new driver’s life is parking regulations and if you’ve been issued with a parking ticket, well, you live and learn! Regulations vary depending on where you live, so make sure you’re vigilant when it comes to checking the rules in your area. Parking in the wrong place at the wrong time or failing to pay and display could lead to a hefty fine – your vehicle could even be towed, and it won’t be cheap to get it back.

Always check the regulations when you park up – road markings will normally be present and signs will display the rules for the area you’re parking in. Never park in a permit holders’ area if you don’t actually hold a permit, unless you fancy parting with that cash you’d earmarked for a night out this weekend!

Police-employed traffic wardens and council parking attendants have the power to issue tickets, and the amount you’ll have to pay usually increases if you fail to make payment within a set time scale. Although you have the right to appeal any ticket you receive, the best way to avoid a fine is to ensure you pay attention to signs and display a valid parking ticket or exemption badge (such as a disabled blue badge or residents’ permit) at all times.

Start as you mean to go on

Developing good parking habits as a new driver begins the second you pass your test. Get it right now and it could mean you continue happy, safe driving with a points-free licence, and avoid expensive involvement in parking-space prangs, getting your car broken into, or landing a hefty parking fine.