How to Exit Safely
When exiting a tight spot into traffic, do everything you can to make sure you are seen. “Turn on your blinker, roll down your window, and use friendly hand signals, making eye contact with drivers behind you,” Gillespie says. “You might wave them to go around you, but they also might be polite and patient and wait for you.”
Before opening your door, it’s also important to look out for cyclists, especially in big cities where bike lanes proliferate. A good precautionary measure is known as the Dutch Reach, so named because it originated in the Netherlands. This simple method involves reaching across your body with your right hand to open the driver’s side door, rather than opening the door with your left hand. Doing so naturally prompts you to turn and look over your shoulder, making you aware of any oncoming cyclists. By making this a habit, you can help make the roads safer for everyone.
Practice Makes Perfect
When it comes to learning how to parallel park, there’s nothing better than repetition. An ideal place to practice is an empty parking lot, using four cones or plastic pylons (these can be rented at most car rental shops) to simulate a rectangular-shaped parking spot by placing a cone or pylon at each corner. The dimensions should be about one foot wider than the width of your car, and one-and-half the length of your car. Practice the steps above, making sure to park without bumping into the cones or pylons.
When you’re parallel parking for real, you’ll need to be cautious to avoid contact with the bumpers of the other parked cars. If you do hit another car while you’re exiting a spot—yes, even a small “tap” counts—the law in most states requires you to leave a note with your name and contact information. If you’re borrowing a car, you’ll also need to provide the owner’s information. It’s wise to snap a cell phone photo of any damage so you have it for your records.