Tag Archives | parking

Why leave your car in gear?

Hill parking by Lyle Hastie
It’s a cautionary tale for every driver: leaving your car parked on a slope only to return and find it has rolled away. And, the road doesn’t need to be especially steep for this to happen, a slight incline is sufficient. In the first instance, when you park on a slope your handbrake should be firmly applied to prevent any rolling, but it makes good sense to have backup. This is where your gears come into play. Leaving your car in gear acts as a failsafe, preventing it from moving if your handbrake doesn’t work for some reason. For peace of mind, once you’ve applied your handbrake, select a gear. If you are facing uphill select first gear to prevent your car rolling backwards and turn your steering wheel away from the kerb. Do this so that if your car does roll, the wheels hit the kerb and the car stops. Conversely, if the front of your car is pointing downhill, select reverse gear to stop it rolling forward and turn your wheel towards the kerb. By putting your car in gear, the engine prevents the wheels from rolling as it counteracts the effects of gravity. If you’re driving an automatic make sure it’s in ‘park’. Get into the habit of leaving your car in gear when you park, even on the flat, so you’re likely to remember when it really counts. Just be sure to check your car is in neutral when you start the engine. As this should be part of your cockpit drill each time you drive, this should come naturally.

Parking with precision

Be aware that if you park your car more than 50cm away from the kerb or pavement, you could receive an on-the-spot fine which is currently £70. This 50cm space leaves you a tight margin for error, so it’s important to focus as it could turn into a double-parking charge if no part of your car is within 50cm from the edge of the carriageway. This can easily happen if you try to force yourself too tightly into a space which doesn’t allow you room to manoeuvre properly. To check you are correctly parked, 50cm equates to just half a metre or the width of a standard household wheelie bin. Rule 242 of the Highway Code states ‘you must not leave your vehicle (or a trailer) in a position where it may cause a danger or an unnecessary road obstruction’. This is backed up by Section 22 of the Road Traffic Act and councils across the UK already implement this policy as a way of maintaining local parking standards. To stay within the 50cm limit, make it an automatic reflex to check your distance from the kerb every time you park.

Night-time parking

Rule 248 of the Highway Code states: ‘You must not park on a road at night facing against
the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space.
‘ This means your car
could be parked legally during the day, but when the sun goes down it becomes illegally
parked. This rule is not well-known and leaves unaware drivers at risk of an expensive fine up
to £1,000 for cars and £2,500 for goods vehicles or passenger vehicles over eight seats. Cars
parked the correct way at night will be illuminated by headlights bouncing off their rear
reflectors. If your car is parked facing against the traffic flow, it will be shrouded in darkness
with no reflectors and passing drivers won’t see you clearly.

Hill parking

Even if you live in a relatively flat area, it’s important you know how to park on a hill safely. Always make sure you park close to the kerb or verge and apply the handbrake firmly. If you are facing uphill at a curb or verge, remember to turn your front wheels away from the curb, towards the road so if your car rolls backwards your front tyre will hit the curb or verge and stop the car rolling back further. It’s also important to select first gear (or ‘park’ if you are driving an automatic), this will keep your engine engaged and prevent your car from further rolling.

If you park facing downhill, turn your front wheels towards the curb or shoulder and select reverse gear, this will stop your car rolling into the road should your brakes become disengaged. If you are parking uphill or downhill but on the right-hand side of the road, simply turn the wheel in the opposite direction to that when you park on the left.

Park smarter

We all use car parks every day so the chances of picking up a dent or scratch are pretty high, especially as vehicles have become wider over the years while parking spaces generally have not. The best advice is to pay careful attention to where and how you park. Always try to leave a good gap on either side to limit the chances of someone accidentally opening their car door onto your vehicle’s bodywork or scratching it as they walk past. If you are worried the gap is too small take a couple of extra minutes and find a wider space. It also makes sense to park away from trolley parks in supermarket car parks and to park next to smarter looking cars – they tend to have more careful owners.

Parking at night

Parking your car at night could become an issue if you don’t comply with certain rules. On a 30mph road cars are permitted to park without leaving lights or parking lights on, but never park against the traffic flow unless you’re in a parking bay. Your vehicle should be at least 10 metres (32 feet) away from any junction and must be closely parked to the kerb. If you park on any road or lay-by with a greater than 30mph speed limit, you must display parking lights and not park against traffic flow. Parking at night on the right-hand side of the road against the traffic flow is only permitted on a one-way- street.

Car park etiquette

In busy car parks, the following tips can help you avoid unnecessary bumps and scratches. Always centre your vehicle in the parking space. Overhanging the stripes will only crowd the next driver to park in the adjacent space, and this can lead to scratched paintwork. Drive your vehicle all the way into the space as this makes it easier for other drivers to see past your car when they’re backing out of adjacent spaces. It’s also helpful for shoppers pushing loaded trolleys who share the driving lane with moving vehicles. The exception is when you drive a small or compact car. With cars such as a Mini or smart car do not pull all the way into the space, park so that the back end of your car is equal with the cars beside you as this lets other drivers know that the space is occupied and avoids the false impression that the space is vacant. You may be saving yourself damage from someone who sees the ‘open’ space and pulls in a bit too quickly.

Safer parking

Damage to your car often happens in car parks where you least expect it. Think prevention! Use space intelligently – park away from other vehicles, trolleys and activity areas where possible because 40 per cent of accidents involve parking, manoeuvring or reversing.

It may seem easier to drive straight into a space, especially when you want easy access to your boot at the supermarket, but reversing into a space offers several advantages. It is safer to reverse into somewhere you can see (the parking space) than reverse into somewhere you can’t (the line of moving traffic). It’s also easier to control a car going forwards when it’s first started.

Low speed manoeuvring

Among the most common driving faults are low speed collisions while parking and manoeuvring, usually resulting in a frustrating scratch or bumper damage. The solution? Do everything slowly – the fastest thing moving should be your eyes through both mirrors and windscreens, front and rear.

Garage parking with precision

It’s easy to misjudge your garage and cause a tiny but expensive scratch. To avoid this, get a friend/relative to help direct your car into the best position possible. Now attach a tennis ball to some string and hang it from the garage ceiling so the ball hangs just above a target on your windscreen. This could be a small sticker, or the rear-view mirror. Next time you enter the garage, drive forward until the tennis ball rests on the target. This might even free up extra storage space in your garage.