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Parallel Parking, Then and Now

Parallel parking, a required maneuver for obtaining a driver’s license is not one of those problems you master for a test and then never have to use again.  “On-street” parking is available in most municipalities in the lower mainland including in some of the most densely populated and high traffic areas. Most drivers need to perform this maneuver regularly. It would seem reasonable to expect therefore, that most seasoned drivers are more than expert at it, but…are you? Do you think others are?

This past week the newspaper The Sunday Telegraph ran a story about the response to an Italian television ad in which, in a scene set a century ago, a young woman struggles to park her horse and carriage, while two men, drinking the beverage “Peroni”, look on, laughing. The action cuts to the present and shows the same person having trouble parking her car, eventually leaving it jutting into the road. Again she is watched by two men drinking Peroni, as a voice-over remarks: “Fortunately some things don’t change.”                      

Needless to say the ad has produced a bit of an uproar in Europe. A lawsuit has been brought in Italy against Peroni for discrimination. The claim says, in part: "Although Peroni may see this ad as light and ironic, we most certainly do not see it as such … We would like to point out to Peroni that women these days safely drive and park not only cars, but planes, taxis, coaches, ships and trains." Another point in the story is the citation of statistics from the Italian Ministry of Transport showing that women are less likely to have an accident while at the wheel than men.
Suggesting a stereotype may have seriously back-fired for Peroni, but the story reminds us of the enduring challenge every driver faces when parallel parking, especially on streets filled with harried motorists impatient with any and all obstacles. A summary of the maneuver, no matter how well phrased is a demanding read. A good one at www.teendriving.com/parallel.htm sets out the various steps, paraphrased as follows: 
  1. Select a space that is at least six feet longer than your car. Flash your brake lights and put on your turn signal before you pull in.
  2. Always look back: back left to check traffic, back right to check that the space remains clear of pedestrians or cyclists.
  3. Pull up approximately 3 feet away from the car you want to park behind, aligning your rear tires with the other car’s rear bumper.
  4. Shift into REVERSE, and turn your wheels ALL THE WAY to the RIGHT.
  5. Slowly back-up until you are at a 45-degree angle. STOP.
  6. Turn your wheels ALL THE WAY to the LEFT. While turning the wheels roll very slowly to avoid putting damaging stress on the tire sidewalls and steering components.
  7. Slowly back-up until you are parallel with the curb. If done correctly you should be less than 1 foot from the curb.
  8. Practice will (should) improve your judgment.

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