Jack Dreyer | Wednesday 21st September 2022 9:00am
Ask people what parts of driving they find most daunting, and you’ll probably find that parking appears fairly prominently. In fact, in a recent survey by Kwik Fit of 2,000 UK adults, parallel parking was the 6th most stressful experience out of a list of events which drivers typically find most tough.
This was irrespective of when the event took place in a person’s driving ‘career’, meaning that for some, the stress of parking just never gets any easier. In fact, while it may sound dramatic, ‘parking anxiety’ is a very real thing.
“A fear of parking would fall under the category of situational phobias, like flying in an aeroplane or visiting the dentist,” Ryan McKelley, Ph.D., department of psychology at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, explained to KERB. “It’s also possible that parking garages and ramps can trigger the same fear response seen in claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces) or agoraphobia (fear of a public place where making a quick exit is difficult).”
Practice parking - fast
When we conducted our survey, we found that 58% of respondents had been forced to parallel park within one month of passing their test. 32% had also experienced parking in a multi-storey car park. Ultimately, parking can’t really be avoided - so trying to make it a positive experience is essential.
17% of women found their first parallel parking experience extremely stressful, while 7% of men felt the same. Our survey also found that younger participants recounted their first parallel parking experience as more stressful, while progressively older drivers remembered it as less stressful.
People in the Glasgow region were the most stressed out by parallel parking for the first time, followed by London - which perhaps makes sense, based on the traffic! Drivers located around Cardiff were the least stressed by parking, with just 2% saying they found it extremely stressful.
Interestingly, though, it may be better to get parallel parking out of the way quickly when you pass your test. Parking was one of the experiences which fewer drivers find stressful if they occur for the first time in their early weeks/months of driving - suggesting that forcing yourself to give it a go early can have a lasting positive impact
3 tips for making parking less stressful
Don’t feel like a natural when it comes to parking your car? Check out our 3 simple tips for helping to make parking a doddle:
Don’t focus on other people
If you already find parking to be a stressful experience, then the idea that people are watching you only amplifies those feelings. In fact, it can often lead to people rushing, misjudging what they’re doing, or abandoning their attempt to park altogether.
However, this shouldn’t be the case. Try to remember that parking happens pretty much all day every day - and, more often than not, people have other things on their mind that they’re focusing on, rather than watching you. Focus only on yourself and what you’re doing, and block out any distractions caused by the presence of nearby pedestrians or other drivers.
Practice, practice, practice
Unless you’re particularly lucky, parking is often not something that we’re naturally good at the first time around. It requires practice. And if you’re not confident about parking, then practising only becomes more important. Take someone out with you, like a parent, partner, or even a driving instructor, and practice parking in a local car park after closing hours, or on a quiet side road.
Having someone there to advise can help you to feel more comfortable, and doing it repeatedly is a surefire way to get into a rhythm - and start to learn your own process for parking in an efficient and stress-free way.
Take it slow
When you’re feeling under pressure, or in a situation where you don’t feel entirely comfortable, it’s very tempting to start rushing - simply to get you out of there as quickly as possible. When it comes to parking, however, this is unlikely to help. In fact, rushing for any reason can often make things worse.
“The main thing with parking is to do it slowly. The slower you go, the less chance you've got of it going wrong; and you can stop and correct it before it does,” said Rebecca Ashton, head of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart. “Go slow, take your time. Make sure that you haven't got any other distractions.”
Ready to park?
Ultimately, it’s a good idea to cut yourself some slack if parking doesn’t come naturally to you. As our survey shows, lots of people across the country find parking to be a stressful experience - so you’re not alone! But with the help of a few simple tips - and some practice runs - you’ll be gliding effortlessly into that parking spot in no time.
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