How do I drive forwards into a parking bay?

Firstly, ask yourself, why would you want to drive forwards into a parking bay? One reason might be that when parking in shopping or supermarket car parks, you may have to park forwards so you can load your shopping into the boot of the car. In the diagrams shown below and later on, putting your shopping trolley onto the grass would be difficult.

Driving into a bay forwards

The downsides to driving forwards into a parking bay:

  • When reversing back out, visibility is worse.
  • It’s easier to fit into a tighter spacing when reversing backwards into the bay than forwards.
  • It’s easier to judge and gauge the white parking bay lines using the door mirrors when reversing backwards.
  • If you are reversing into a parking bay, you can often use the parking bays in front of you to help you line your car up safely too.

Driving into a bay forwards on your driving test

Despite there being more cons than pros, it is a manoeuvre that is done daily, especially in car parks where people are in a rush. It’s usually quicker to do this manoeuvre and where visibility is good, because there are no other cars around you, it almost makes it as safe as the reversing option.

The DVSA have recognised this is a manoeuvre that is used in most people’s daily lives, hence they have implemented it into the new driving test which started on 4th December 2017.

What the DVSA expect you to do on your test

Watch the short video below for an insight to what is expected on the day of your test from the DVSA driving examiner. The DVSA driving examiner will not tell you which bay to park into. You can choose a bay on the left or right hand side if they are available.

Approaching and selecting your chosen parking bay

  1. The moment the examiner asks you to perform the manoeuvre, check your mirrors and come off of the gas pedal. You need time to select a suitable bay.
  2. Apply the beginning of the LADA routine (Look, Assess, Decide then Act).
  3. Look out for other cars coming into or leaving the car park, pedestrians crossing your path, trolleys in the road, pillars or posts near the bay you are aiming for. As you are entering a parking bay, oncoming vehicles driving through the car park would assume priority. So you should wait for them to pass before entering the bay usually.
  4. Some people prefer to park in a bay with cars beside them, using the cars in both bays to judge and fit into their target bay.
  5. If it’s your driving test, we would recommend (if possible) parking forwards into a bay with no cars beside you. There is less pressure and more margin for error is available.
  6. Remember, as you can see in the video above from the DVSA, you can cross the white lines of the bay slightly, if safe to do so.
  7. It might be easier (if possible) to choose a bay on the right side. As you will be approaching on the left side, you won’t need to go onto the other side of the road to do the manoeuvre. If you do choose a bay on the left, then you will need to look ahead in plenty of time and make sure it’s safe to approach the bay on the wrong side of the road temporarily, so you can angle your car correctly and manoeuvre into the bay.
  8. Once you have selected your target bay then proceed to do the MSPSL routine on the approach.
LADA on approach

MSPSL on the approach to parking forwards into a bay

  1. Recheck your mirrors – interior mirror and door mirrors so you know what’s behind you.
  2. If someone is behind you then consider putting a signal on so the road users behind and potentially in front of you understand that you are about to change direction.
  3. If your target bay is on the right, as you can see in the diagrams, then hold your position. If you have some extra space on your left side, position the car more to the left. The more space away from the target parking bay you give yourself, the easier it will be to finish with the car in a straighter line on the first attempt.
  4. Once you have your position, adjust your speed to a slow granny zimmer frame walking speed so you can stop in time if a hazard pops up and judge your steering better.
  5. Keep looking around – kids can run out into the road, other road users may try to get into the bay you have chosen etc.

Lining up your mirror to enter your target bay

Your instructor may have a focal point for you, but the most common focal point is using your door mirror. Get ready to turn right when your door mirror is just in line with the first white line of the bay you want to drive into.

MSPSL and Lining Up

Aim to pass the white line by a maximum of 1 foot, then start steering full lock to the right whilst the car is moving slowly.

Initially, your front passenger side will be heading towards the red circle you see in the diagram below. If you have turned at the right time, your car should come round so you marginally cross the edge of the bay. Imagine there is a car parked correctly in the bay on the left of your target. There would still be a small amount of space available for your vehicle to go slightly over the bay and not hit the car.

In the event you have mis-timed your turn and you believe you are crossing the bay too much that you could hit a parked car (if it was there), then always stop. You are allowed to reverse backwards to adjust your position and then drive forwards into your target bay making the necessary adjustments. This is known as a shunt. You can usually take 2-3 shunts before the driving examiner may intervene verbally and ask you dismiss the manoeuvre and continue with the rest of the test. If the examiner intervenes verbally or physically then you have failed that part of your test.

Aiming the initial approach

When to straighten up, forward bay parking

Look at the diagram below. If you straighten up immediately based on the angle in the diagram, you may end up leaving your car at a slight angle and require a shunt.

As the car comes round into the position you see in the diagram, you will need to take the full lock of the steering wheel gradually, you will usually need to straighten the wheels completely once the car is in the bay fully and just before you come to a stop. Keep your vehicle speed as slow as possible when straightening your wheels. If you have done the manoeuvre correctly and accurately, you will be left with little space in front of you to straighten your wheels. Always try to avoid dry steering.

Straightening up

How to check you are straight

In a car park like the one in the diagram below, look in both of your door mirrors and you should be able to see the bay behind you. You can see the blue car directly behind you.

Many learner cars have small blind spot mirrors on them for manoeuvres. If your vehicle has these mirrors, then glance in them to check you can see if the white lines are even on both sides.

If you are parking next to another car and your car doesn’t look straight, just check the vehicle next to you is straight. The vehicle next to you might be at an angle which often makes you believe you’re not central in your bay when you actually are.

Final Position

Reversing back out of the bay, to drive away again

Just when you think you’ve done the hard part. You now have possibly the most dangerous part. As you are facing forwards, your visibility of what’s coming up and down the road in the car park behind you is limited. You will need to keep your vehicle speed very slow.

Start with a full 360 observation before you move the car backwards. Reverse back in a straight line until your car is almost out of the bay. Only start to turn the steering wheel left or right when you are sure the front of your car won’t hit a parked car in one of bays next to you. (If there are no cars next to you, imagine there is on your test so you can demonstrate to the examiner what you would do if there was a car there)

Whilst reversing backwards, make sure you are looking over both shoulders. Try not to use your interior mirror too much. You will see more by looking over both shoulders. If a vehicle comes from either direction, stop. If a pedestrian walks behind your car, stop. You do not have priority, so you will need to stop for any oncoming hazards. Be mindful about people walking beside your car, opening their doors next to you and also glance ahead too.

Imagine you’re parking next to a busy Christmas market square. Hustle and bustle everywhere. Keep your head scanning in all directions so you don’t harm or hit anyone.

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