Of all of the different components of the practical test, the one that seems to strike the most fear into the hearts of learners is the reversing manoeuvre they'll need to complete. One of these is bay parking—both forward and reverse. If you're still a bit unsure about the bay parking manoeuvre, we've got just what you need.
In this guide, we're going to look at the bay parking manoeuvre: how to perform it, what the examiner is looking for and when it might be used in real-life conditions.
Added to the driving test in December 2017, the bay parking manoeuvre is probably one of the most important manoeuvres you'll need to learn—considering you'll need to be able use car parks on a day-to-day basis. As such, it's absolutely vital that you get to grips with it.
There are two types of bay parking, so you could be asked to demonstrate either on your test:
There's a 1-in-3 chance that you'll be asked to complete the bay parking manoeuvre during your practical test. The instructions will sound something like this:
Forward bay parking
“I'd like you to drive forward into any parking bay on the left or right (if the car park permits), finishing within the lines… Now I'd like you to reverse out either to the left or right (again, if the car park allows it).”
Reverse bay parking
“I'd like you to reverse back into any parking bay on the left or right (if the car park permits), finishing with the lines… Now I'd like you to drive out of the bay either to the left or right (again, if the car park allows it).”
The examiner will be watching how well the candidate can control and manoeuvre the vehicle in a restricted space—carefully monitoring their use of the clutch, accelerator and handbrake. The learner will need to display good judgement with picking a parking space and positioning the vehicle. The examiner will also be keeping an eye out for the learner's observations whilst driving forward and reversing out/reversing in and driving out.
Regardless of whether you're asked to complete the forward or reverse bay parking manoeuvre, the examiner will be expecting you to demonstrate:
You could pick up driving test faults during your bay parking manoeuvre for lack of control, poor observations and mediocre planning.
Candidates can't drive through a first parking bay and then park in a bay directly in front of that. Similarly, when you reverse out, you can't go into any bays behind you.
You are allowed to make adjustments throughout the manoeuvre. For example, if you're driving into a parking bay but feel like you're not quite in the lines, you can reverse and try again to correct your position.
The examiner will tell you to drive forward into a parking bay in the driving test centre car park or another car park of their choosing. It's entirely up to you to choose a bay. Don't panic and pick the first one you see—take your time and give yourself plenty of room to manoeuvre.
Once you've got a bay picked out, you need to give yourself enough room to turn and make constant observations to ensure you're safe to carry out the manoeuvre.
Not sure about the reference points in your instructor's car? It's important that you know them—get your instructor to go over them in the lesson before your practical test. If it helps, they might add a marker or tape on the dashboard to help you spot your references as you go along.
Once you've found your reference point, you're almost ready to turn into your chosen parking bay. Remember, all-around checks are important here—don't slip up!
Stop the car once you've reached your next reference point, e.g., when the bay line reaches under your door mirror. If you're not within the lines, take your time and adjust. Once you're happy, select neutral and apply your handbrake.
Now that you're in the bay, there's only one step left in the manoeuvre: reversing out. Again, observations are important here—whilst your reverse lights should warn pedestrians of your intentions, they might simply ignore them. As such, it's your responsibility to stay aware of your surroundings.
And now onto the reverse bay parking manoeuvre...
The examiner will tell you to reverse into a parking bay in the driving test centre car park (on rare occasions, they may decide to do this manoeuvre in a car park of their choosing). It's your choice as to which bay you reverse into. Take your surroundings into consideration as you pick—try for one that will give you plenty of room.
You'll now have to reverse your car up to your point of turn. Although it varies with each car, this reference point is roughly found when the 3rd line from the bay you're targeting lines up with your side door.
Now it's time to reverse your car into the bay and adjust as you go along to get the vehicle between the lines. Slowly does it—if you move slowly enough, you'll be able to make adjustments as you go along. If you move too quickly, you'll end up needing to drive forwards and reverse back in to make any changes.
Now it's time to straighten up and make any necessary adjustments to get between the bay lines. Once you're ready, the examiner will tell you when you need to move off.
The question should really be, “When wouldn't you need to bay park in real life?”. As soon as you've got your hands on your driving licence, you'll undoubtedly be flexing your newfound skills on the roads around the UK—maybe even planning a road trip or two. An essential part of real life driving, however, is being able to park safely. Whether you're making a quick stop at your local shop or parking up at work, you need to know how to forward or reverse bay park.
If you can, you might be better off using the reverse bay park manoeuvre rather than the forward bay park. That's because driving forward out of a parking bay is usually a lot safer—and easier—than reversing out of one (though if you've mastered both, it should be a piece of cake!).
Whilst the examiner will try to avoid car parks with heavy traffic, you're still likely to encounter other road users when performing your bay parking manoeuvre. As such, you need to take necessary precautions to ensure other road users know what you're planning to do. Indicating makes it easier for others to know which direction you're turning in.
The recommended standard bay size is around 2.4m wide and 4.8m long. This should give you more than enough room to manoeuvre your vehicle into the bay and get your wheels relatively straight.
Whether you're heading to work, popping into the shop or pretty much visiting anywhere, you'll need to use a car park. If you don't know how to bay park once you've passed your test, you'll be in for a few nasty surprises!
You've got a 1 in 3 chance of being asked to complete the bay parking manoeuvre. This means you can't just leave it to chance and hope you'll be asked to demonstrate another one—you need to make sure you're comfortable with bay parking.
Other than bay parking, there are two other manoeuvres that the examiner might ask you to demonstrate on your practical test:
Manoeuvres are an important component of the practical test. If the examiner feels like you're showing a lack of judgement or control whilst carrying out the manoeuvre, it's likely that you'll pick up a major fault—meaning you'll fail. Don't worry too much about this. Instead, remember, slow and steady wins the race—you're allowed to make adjustments if you feel like you're off by a bit.
No. This is just one of the many driving test myths out there. Providing you have made an attempt to straighten the front wheels, the examiner won't be too concerned if the wheels aren't entirely straight. Plus, you can make adjustments along the way to straighten up if you need to.
No. You're allowed to pull forward or reverse back (depending on whether you're reverse or forward bay parking) in order to correct your positioning. If it helps, you can stop the car before your point of turn in order to break up the manoeuvre into more manageable chunks.
Whilst there isn't an exact time limit imposed, you're looking at around 4 minutes or so. In reality, you won't need this much time—you'll be done in a couple of minutes. Don't rush, though. Take your time and move slowly; it will give you a better chance of accuracy and control.
You need to react accordingly. Even if you perform the most controlled and perfect bay parking manoeuvre, you'll fail your driving test if you don't stay on top of your observations. If you see someone approaching you, slow down and stop—allow them to pass before you continue.
Typically speaking, the test centre shouldn't be that busy—nor will the car park the examiner picks for the manoeuvre. If there are other vehicles, you'll have to use you own judgement. You can stop and wait for a vehicle to pass, but if there's a constant stream of traffic, you'll have to eventually get on with it. The other vehicles will have to wait for you to continue, so don't feel pressured into rushing.
Simply put, if you want your practical test to continue, you shouldn't refuse to complete any manoeuvre the examiner asks you to demonstrate. Feel free to ask questions if you don't understand the instructions, but bear in mind that if you simply refuse, the examiner will probably end the test then and there.
It depends on whether you're asked to demonstrate a forward or reverse bay park manoeuvre. The reverse bay park manoeuvre can only be carried out in the test centre's car park (usually, though there are exceptions to every rule), whilst the forward bay park can be undertaken at the test centre or a car park of the examiner's choosing.
If you're concerned about hitting the kerb or finding yourself outside of the bay lines, remember, you are allowed to make adjustments. Rather than waiting for something bad to happen—picking up driving test faults—make necessary adjustments to ensure you nail the manoeuvre.
It's not likely. The examiner will probably be able to tell just by using the side mirrors. Of course, if they're not entirely certain, they'll tell you that they need to get out of the car to double check.
If you're demonstrating the bay parking manoeuvre in the test centre car park, then the examiner could ask you to do it at the beginning or end of the practical test. If, on the other hand, it's a car park of the examiner's choosing, it will likely be at any point during the independent driving section. Instead of worrying about when you'll be asked to perform a manoeuvre, just concentrate on your driving and take it a step at a time.