Perfect Parallel Parking

Many Brits don't just have bad teeth; they are also bad parkers. At least that is the opinion of esure, a United Kingdom on-line insurance purveyor. To help Britons (and all of the world's citizens) do a better job in mastering this daunting task, esure, in conjunction with Surrey University, has released a mathematical formula that sets the parameters for perfect parallel parking.

Lest you think all of this is a joke, you should know that poorly perpetrated parallel parking is a big problem in Britain and the European continent. Insurer esure estimates that £151m ($247.6m) worth of bumps and scrapes are caused each year by misjudged parking maneuvers and other low-speed maneuvers. The need for a better understanding of what it takes to parallel park is underlined by the fact that a drive into town or city centers will now involve what Britons refer to as "a tight parallel park." Why? Because the annual increase in the number of cars on the road is not being accompanied by additional parking places. Instead, the availability of on-street town and city center parking spaces remains almost static.

What should be done to curb (if you should pardon the expression) this plethora of poor parkers? Esure is also calling for parallel parking to be a compulsory part of every driving test in Britain. Currently, there is only a 50 percent chance it will be tested, which apparently means there is only a 50 percent chance it won't be tested. It seems to challenge Britain's national will.

"We have to learn to park better as a nation," Colin Batabyal, technical director at esure, said. "Everyone loves to park on the road if they can, so millions of drivers a day are trying to squeeze into tight spaces, and many have little idea of what constitutes a good parallel park."

While that seems like not-too-difficult a concept to grasp, we'll have to take his word for it. However, these are signs your parallel parking job wasn't too well-executed: 1. Your vehicle's bumper has smashed the headlights of the car behind you. 2. Your vehicle bumper has smashed the taillights of the car in front of you. 3. Your vehicle has run over a constable, patrolman, or member of Scotland Yard. 4. Your car is afire and you are stuck inside.

While these American-bred hints might suffice for most drivers, Dr. Rebecca Hoyle of Surrey University has devised a mathematical parking formula that describes the minimum requirements for being able to park and the conditions for a perfect S-shaped parking "manoeuvre." (Geez, no wonder they can't park; they can't even spell.)

The formula looks daunting but can be broken down into a few simple steps. And note, these should be performed in order. Also note, these instructions have been revised for those of us in the world who drive on the right ("correct") side of the road.
  1. Pick a gap that is a minimum of 150 percent the length of your car. (To which any experienced New York, Boston, Chicago or San Francisco parker will say, "You gotta be kidding!")
  2. Back up to the point where your car is side-by-side with the vehicle at the curb in front of the empty space in which you'd like to park. (If both cars are average size, line up the steering wheels of both cars). Turn your wheel to right lock, keeping the car moving slowly.
  3. When the car reaches a 45-degree angle to the curb (the rate it reaches this angle may depend on your turning circle) turn the steering wheel to full left lock.
  4. As the front of your vehicle approaches the curb, straighten the wheel (by turning it right). If you turn too late, you will hit the curb. If you turn too early, you will park too far away from the curb, which is a fashion don't.
  5. Move forward to a parallel position, equal distance between vehicles.
  6. Exit your vehicle and remove yourself from the scene as quickly as possible.

    As UK residents will discover, all of this is jolly good fun, and it could save them a lot of money.

    "Esure believes that every driver being tested should have to demonstrate that they can safely parallel park their car into a relatively small space," Batabyal said. "Our research indicates £151m of parking and low-speed claims each year, but that doesn't take into account the full extent of scrape-and-runs committed by poor parkers."

    These days, Villeperce, France, resident Tom Ripley refuses to go to Britain because the parallel parking there is so bad.