Updated: May 31, 2021
In this blog I'm going to focus on the relatively 'new' driving test manoeuvre of pulling up on the right-hand side of the road and reversing two car's lengths parallel and reasonably close to the kerb and then rejoining any traffic flow on the left. Although you will not be asked to park between vehicles, the reverse element simulates reserving to improve your view before emerging from between parked vehicles.
The skills being tested are;
choosing a safe, legal and convenient place to pull up on the right and pulling up safely
reversing under control, with effective observations before and during the reverse, reversing accurately
moving away safely and under control using effective observations before and during the move away to rejoin the flow on the left
The important skill it doesn't test is deciding whether or not you should choose to do this manoeuvre - this element is vitally important.
Introducing this manoeuvre to the test has caused the biggest stir among driving instructors, who for many years have passed on the best advice in the Highway Code (rule 239) which advises, among other things, "do not park facing against the traffic flow".
This is still good advice and parking with the flow of traffic is preferred unless there's a very good reason not to.
It's important to note that during daylight hours it isn't actually against the law to park against the flow, it's just more risky than parking on the left, hence the Highway Code's good advice. However, if you choose to ignore this advice and cause a collision, this may be used against you to form a prosecution for careless driving or worse.
What a driver with a good understanding of the rules and laws knows is that there are often exceptions for circumstances beyond their control. Highway Code rule 248 specifically tells you when this exception is. Your responsibility as a driver is to know when it is necessary to do something; when it is safe to do it and when it is legal.
Parking against the flow of traffic has additional dangers, such as; oncoming drivers misunderstanding your intentions; your headlights may be dazzling oncoming drivers and when parked your vehicle is displaying the wrong colour reflectors which can mislead other drivers in poor visibility conditions. If the Highway Code advises against this and it involves higher risk, then why would the DVSA include this in the driving test?
Well, the key factors include the real-life 21st century issue where parking in many places has become more and more difficult due to increased car ownership. This has in turn forced local authorities to manage on-road parking more heavily. In my local city of Nottingham, it's almost impossible to park anywhere except in a recognised parking place and often there are parking restrictions on the left, leaving only the recognised spaces on the right. For years driving instructors hadn't been teaching pupils to park against the flow and yet as soon as they pass their driving test, these pupils, just like millions of other drivers each day, take to parking against the flow as if it's acceptable in any circumstance. Because driver education hasn't focused much attention on this, the risks weren't highlighted well enough. By including this in the test, driver educators can raise awareness of the risks and produce drivers who can make sound decisions -
Is it always necessary? No! Is it always safe? No! Is it always legal? No! It's a driver's responsibility to know when it is acceptable to do this manoeuvre. Just like every other aspect of driving, if you do not recognise how risky your actions are likely to be in the particular circumstances you are facing, it can be very dangerous. A good risk assessment should always be made and you may even conclude that it would be best to find somewhere to turn around so you can park with the traffic flow.
Most on-road recognised parking places are well lit, however, at night you need to consider; will I dazzle the oncoming drivers? Should I switch to side-lights? Is it legal on this road to use only side-lights? Is visibility seriously reduced? Should I park off road? Will my reflectors confuse another road-user? Another huge risk factor is crossing oncoming traffic to rejoin the flow on the left. Would you have a good view of the road? Are you aware of the vehicle's blind spots (van drivers especially)? If you can't see, is someone able to help (just like reversing into a side-road)? How could you improve your view (reverse, creep and peep)? You see, there's always some level of risk in driving whatever you're doing but the decision to park against the flow - or anywhere else - is more than a matter of habit or because "I live there." Parking on the right can be done safely as long as you are aware of the problems you might have and by considering and managing the risks.