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Why don’t we like parallel parking?

parallel parking

Is it true that nobody likes parallel parking? Are men more confident at parking than women? The answers are not as obvious as you might think. As more cars park themselves, there may come a time when we don’t know how to do it.

Parallel parking is stressful

For many drivers, reverse or parallel parking is a stressful business. It even has an unofficial name: parallelophobia. The question is why it’s so stressful, as everyone learns to do it to pass their test and 60% of drivers parallel park every week.

Is it true that nobody likes parallel parking? Budget Direct found the majority (57%) of respondents to their study feel anxious about parallel parking and 40% would even avoid places where they have to do it. A timid 22% had minimal or no confidence in their parking abilities.

There were clear differences between the genders:

  • Twice as many women (35%) as men (16%) usually or always felt anxious while parking.
  • Nearly half of women compared to 31% of men rarely or never parallel park. 
  • 65% of men, nearly double 34% of women, claim to be very or extremely confident parkers.

Other studies suggest women feel less confident about parking than men. However, there are other differences between the genders in the way they park.

Researchers used CCTV footage from 700 British car parks and interviewed 2,000 drivers about parking. In this study, women scored an average of 13.4, while men scored 12.3 out of 20 for ability to park.

Men took an average of 16 seconds to park, compared to 21 seconds for women. They also spent less time repositioning the car once they parked. However, 53% of women had parked in the centre of the space, compared to only 25% of men.

Why did women feel compelled to spend time parking accurately? It may have something to do with different spatial awareness and ability.

Do men have better spatial awareness?

Men usually perform the standard mental rotation test faster than women. This is where you are shown an object and asked to visualise it if it were rotated by 180%. Even across cultures in 40 countries, in 4-year olds and in babies, this spatial ability is stronger in males. This was even true in animals, in eight out of 11 species, regardless of how far they ranged. Spatial ability is strongly linked with navigation skills. However, women are better at finding things (like the spare key in the glove box).

Researchers suggest the reason why men are better at spatial navigation is because they have 20 times more testosterone. In fact, women who take testosterone get better at spatial navigation.

However, the Budget Direct study also found clear patterns in generational attitudes to parallel parking.

Parking is related to generations

It appears older people are far less stressed about parallel parking than younger people:

  • Only 8% of people over 70 and 17% of baby boomers find parking stressful.
  • 64% of over 70s and 52% of baby boomers are very or extremely confident parkers.
  • 33% of Gen Y and 37% of Gen Z drivers always or usually find it stressful.
  • 26% of Gen Y and 25% of Gen Z are most likely to have minimal or no confidence at parking.

Why are young people so stressed about it? Certainly, traffic has become denser and conditions more hazardous than decades ago. Parking is limited and there is more competition for a space, whether you park on the street or in a car park. Yet every novice driver learns to parallel park in these conditions to pass their test.

Reverse parking in car parks

Parking in car parks involves the same spatial skills used in parallel parking. However, many people prefer to park nose in rather than reverse in. This means they will have to back out into 2-way traffic, people pushing trolleys and kids running about. AAMi says some 22% of claimants in 2023 reported a car park collision when at least one driver was reversing.

It is usually safer to back into a parking space and drive out forwards. This way it’s easier to merge and others are more likely to let you in. The Driver Knowledge Test also says you have to reverse more than halfway, but go forward by only one third, to be able to see in both directions.

Reliance on parking technology

While there may be differences in the genders, the most stark differences are in the generations. Are there other reasons why we are nervous of parking? Could one of the contributors be reliance on parking technology?

Apparently, 68% of people said they had to have rear view cameras and/or parking sensors in their cars.

Just as keyboards, keypads and voice recognition have spelled the end of handwriting, many driving skills could also be lost. As more cars are fitted with parking technology, is it possible that in 20 years, nobody will even know how to parallel or reverse park?

Read last week’s article on why parking is getting harder.

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Corrina Baird

Writer and Researcher, greenslips.com.au

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years in financial services and over 8 years with greenslips.com.au, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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