You Got Your Driver’s License! 5 Places You Should Check Out in California

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You Got Your License! 5 Places to Visit in Cali

Few things are as exciting as getting your driver’s license. It means more freedom, responsibility, and power. Once you have your California license, you are probably itching to start hitting the road and seeing all the amazing things the state has to offer. Luckily, there are many options for terrains and experiences that are all contained in this one great state. To get you started, here are five places you should add to your list to see in California.

1. San Diego

This is a popular tourist spot for good reason. There are plenty of soft, sandy beaches to play on with great access to the ocean. Try some surfing here or just play in the waves. Want more structure or venues to visit? There are plenty to choose from here like the zoo, Sea World, and the old missions. You can even check out the USS Midway Museum. There truly is something for everyone in this city, which makes it the perfect destination for a road trip no matter your age.

2. Yosemite

No California road trip list is complete without mentioning this world-famous national park. This bit of the state offers hiking, fishing, rock climbing, and plenty of places to camp. Some of the most famous landmarks in the country are in this park, including El Capitan and Half Dome. This area is a bit more spread out too, so if you have recently finished your Online Drivers Ed courses, this is a great beginning point with less traffic than the bigger cities.

3. Anaheim

Disneyland is one of the most popular theme parks in the world and it is great for visitors of all ages. Since you live in California and have more freedom to get there, consider buying an annual park pass and check out the many different events offered throughout the year. It’s also great for coming up with plans for dates or just something to do on a weekend. Even better, it is closely situated to some awesome beaches, like Huntington Beach, so you can pack a lot into your visit.

4. San Francisco

Another big city to visit is more north and offers a lot of experiences too. Check out Alcatraz Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, or go see a Broadway play. Many restaurants and cafes in the city have been featured on food shows and received awards. There is certainly a lot of culture to experience in this city.

5. Lake Tahoe

One place in California that offers different kinds of fun depending on the season is Lake Tahoe. During the summer months, the lake is great for swimming, water sports, and mountain biking. Hiking is another popular summer activity, with well-maintained trails and varying levels of difficulty. If you get your license in the winter and want to head somewhere, this is still a great destination to downhill ski, snowshoe, sled, or even try cross-country skiing.

While these five locations are all great to add to your road trip list, there is so much more California has to offer. Now that you have your driver’s license, you can really get out and explore, with your parent’s permission, of course. Show that you are responsible by double-checking that you carry your car’s registration and proof of insurance, an emergency kit, and that sparkly new driver’s license. Then get out there and discover for yourself while California is considered the Golden State.

 

6 Places to Visit in Washington with Your New Driver’s License

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You Got Your License! 6 Places to Visit in Washington | Swerve Driving School

Working through an online driver’s education class is a lot of work. Once you have completed the work and taken your driving test, it’s important that you take some time to celebrate. Exploring your home state is a great way to practice your driving skills while also doing something fun. If you are going to explore the state of Washington, here are 6 places to make sure you put on your road trip stops.

1. Seattle

While this can be a very intimidating place to drive, it is the most popular city in Washington. There are plenty of sites to see, including the Space Needle. There are some fun stops, including coffee shops, food stops, and the infamous gum wall. Pike Place is famous for its farmer’s markets, shops, and views. For a Washington road trip, this is a must-see.

2. Mount Rainier National Park

The tallest peak in the state, you can find it just south of Seattle. There are things to see in the Mount Rainier National Park. Year-round there are activities, including hiking in the summer through the Sunrise and Paradise regions, admiring waterfalls and enjoying the peace of the forest. During the winter, you can snowshoe around the parks and take in the excellent views.

3. San Juan Islands

Washington has plenty of islands, including clustered areas. North of Puget Sound, you can find the San Juan Islands and are reached by ferry. There are destinations that you should see here, including galleries, parks, and restaurants. Of course, there are plenty of water activities to do too, like boating, whale watching tours, and kayaking.

4. Olympic National Park

There is no shortage of scenery in this area of Washington. There are scenic drives that allow you to practice your driving while also taking in the incredible views. Stop in at the hot springs for a fun experience or hike up to a glacier. This is a stop you will use your camera a lot, so make sure it has a full battery.

5. Mount St. Helens

This volcano brought worldwide attention when it erupted in 1980. A monument was created, along with a visitor’s center, observatory, and science center. Schedule a stop to hike up to the top so you can see what remains and peer into the crater. Learn more about the disaster or get a permit to explore the area more in-depth.

6. Leavenworth

This town used to be known for its logging industry, but during the 1960s had a lull. To increase tourists and keep the town going, annual festivals and a Bavarian-theme were introduced. You will feel like you are in an authentic European city with the buildings, alphorn serenades, and residents wearing lederhosen.

These are just starting points for fun stops on a road trip. Don’t forget to pack your shiny, new Washington driver’s license and bring some extra cash. You might want to bring some money for souvenirs, a charger to keep your camera ready for anything, and some extra snacks for the car. Washington is a beautiful state with plenty to explore.

 

You Got Your License! 6 Places to Visit in Florida

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You Got Your License! 6 Places to Visit in Florida | Swerve Driving School

Once you have just finished your testing and have your Florida driver’s license, it might be time to go on a road trip. The good news is that Florida has a lot of fun destinations to visit. If you are finishing up your Drivers Ed classes and planning where you can take a drive to, here are six of the best places in Florida to visit.

Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society

For a truly unique animal experience, take a drive to this stop in West Palm Beach. With over 700 animals from all over the world, visitors can get an up-close view of many different habitats. Take an extra special trip on the Lion Country Safari through the African animal areas. There are also opportunities to feed giraffes and interact with animals in the petting zoo portion.

The Colonial Quarter

This living history museum is in St. Augustine. It highlights the history of the state during the 1500s to 1700s. One of the best features is the replica of a 16th-century boat. Other places to consider that are close to the Colonial Quarter are the Ximinez-Fatio House Museum, Maritime Museum, and the Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Key West is written about in songs and movies because of its beaches, food, and entertainment. It is home to another great treasure though with Dry Tortugas National Park. This park is home to seven reef islands that form an archipelago. It is a great place to visit if you are interested in ocean ecology or just want to check out a cool landmark for Florida.

Daytona

Known all around the world, this city is famous for the Daytona 500 Nascar Race. Whether you are a fan of racing or just want to witness the popular event, this is a fun road trip to make. The fans are always as entertaining as the race with everyone cheering for their favorite racers and all the excitement in the air. This is best for mid-level drivers because the crowds can draw a lot of traffic. Sit on the beach afterward to complete the road trip destination.

Miami

This city is iconic for culture, entertainment, and just being one of America’s hippest cities. The beaches are sandy and warm. The city center features both the old and new side of Florida. There is a wide range of restaurants that feature different levels of sophistication. Visitors can find Caribbean food, Latin flavors, southern cooking, and more.

Disney World

Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks around- Disney World being the king of them all. While the ticket might be expensive, it is well worth the cost for the rides, experiences, and amazing food options in the park. This is a perfect road trip for a driver with a little more experience since there is more traffic and bigger, wider roads. What’s more is that this park caters to visitors of all ages, so it’s a great option no matter who joins you on your trip.

If you are ready to hit the road with your new Florida driver’s license, these six destinations are just the beginning. Whether you choose to visit one of the other big cities, National Parks, or attractions in Florida or venture beyond state lines, road trips are a great opportunity to get more experience driving.

Driving Skills Checklist

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Driving Skills Checklist | Swerve Driving SchoolTeaching your teen to drive can be a daunting task. There are specific skills required by state testing for each student to know before receiving their license. Here is a checklist you can refer to, to help review concepts and mark where you need to review information or practice a little more. The list is broken into three sections- beginning, intermediate, and advanced driving skills.

Beginning Skills

These skills should be the basic foundations of driving a vehicle. They include steps to complete before driving and maneuvers done in a parking lot, before ever operating a vehicle on the road.

Skill
Needs Improvement
Good
Mastered
Pre-vehicle inspection   
Reading dashboard gauges   
Starting the vehicle   
Smooth steering and movements   
Adjusting and using mirrors   
Accurate maneuvering of vehicle   
Making accurate, smooth turns   
Backing Up   
Driving Posture and positioning   
Smooth and controlled stopping   
Parking in a marked stall   
Turning off the car   

 

Intermediate Driving Skills

These skills are improved after the basics have been mastered. They are learned and practiced on the road, but not in heavy traffic. Practice should be done once the student has learned the driving laws and what all the signs mean. Master these skills before moving on to the advanced section.

Driving Skill
Needs Improvement
Good
Mastered
Yields to right of way to vehicles and pedestrians   
Keeps a minimum 2-second following distance   
Anticipates and communicates with other drivers   
Obeys road signs and speed limits   
Uses proper turn signals   
Watches out for possible hazards   
Parking vehicle on curb   
Parking at an incline   
Parking at an angle   
Enters and exits roundabouts correctly   
Enters and exits intersections correctly   
Uses proper passing techniques   
Keeps attention on the road   

 

Advanced Skills

Each section of driving skills should build on the other. Once the two lists are mastered and the student has become increasingly comfortable behind the wheel, move on to these advanced skills.

Driving Skill
Needs Improvement
Good
Mastered
Maneuvering in rush hour traffic   
Adjusts driving in bad weather   
Adjusts driving during nighttime hours   
Driving on freeways and highways   
Entering and exiting expressways   
Uses caution around semi-trucks   
Uses caution around motorcycles and bicycles   
Handles complex and multiple driving hazards   
Uses defensive driving techniques   
Looks ahead for escape routes   
Understands emergency procedures   

 

Once the Skills are Mastered

Not all teens are ready to drive at the same time and some need more help than others. Referring to these lists every so often is a great way to know what skills to work on more so that you both know that they are prepared to move on to the next level of skills. Another way to utilize these lists is to recognize the areas your teen has improved. Take the time to acknowledge areas of improvement and encourage their efforts.

If you are taking adult driving classes to learn how to drive yourself, you can use these lists with the help of a friend, significant other, or just yourself as you practice before a test. No matter what stage of life you are in, these skills are required on driving tests for licensing. Once you have mastered each level you or your teen driver should be ready to take your driving test.

Owning a Car 101: Routine Car Maintenance

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Owning a car is a big responsibility at any age. One of the best things you can do to extend the life of your vehicle is to make sure maintenance is done regularly. If your driver’s education course covers car maintenance, it is important to look at your own car and figure out how everything applies to your specific vehicle to learn best.

Here are some of the basic routine car maintenance items you should know how to do in your car.

1. Change the oil

This is considered one of the most basic car maintenance items because it needs to be done often. Oil helps lubricate the engine parts to keep them from grinding and destroying the engine.

Over time, the oil gets dirty and leads to build up, which also causes damage from parts rubbing together. Consult your owner’s manual for frequency on oil changes and the best type of oil to use.

2. Checking tire pressure

The main part keeping your vehicle moving on and off the road is the wheels. Without even one, you’re stuck.

The best way to prevent damage is to check the pressure about once a month. Keep a pressure gauge in your glove box so it is also handy when you need it. The recommended PSI for tire pressure is located on the driver’s door jamb, in the owner’s manual, and usually on the tires themselves.

While you are checking them, look for any nails, sticks, or other debris stuck in them. Also, add the spare tire to your list of tires to check so that it is ready if you ever need it.

3. Monitor fluids

Motor oil isn’t the only fluid in the car that needs regular checking. Every now and then, you should pop the hood and check the transmission fluid, coolant, brake fluid, and washer fluid. Each has its own compartment with a dip stick or cap to check the levels.

Make sure there are no leaks or cracks in the containers and that the levels are adequate.

4. Examine the hoses and belts

The hoses are responsible for making sure fluids are carried to their appropriate locations, preventing over-heating and keeping things running smoothly. Check each for any cracks, leaks, or bulges. If you find any hoses with these traits, they need to be replaced.

Next, locate the belts. Most cars and SUVs require a belt to keep them running, which means it is very important. If you notice any tears, rips, cracks, glazing, or chunks missing, it needs to be replaced.

5. Keep the battery clean

While you are under the hood checking fluids, hoses, and belts, just look at the battery to make sure the connectors are clean.

If you notice corrosion, mix baking soda with a little water and apply it to a wire brush. Scrub around the connectors lightly and wipe clean.

6. Change the windshield wipers

Windshield wiper blades help keep your vision clear during storms. It is best to check them a few times a year to make sure they are functioning before you’re in a storm. It is time to replace them if they leave streaks on the glass or make a screeching sound while operating.

 

This is a very basic list, but there are other things you should know like how to jump a car battery and how to change a headlight or taillight. The more maintenance you know how to do on your own, the less money you will have to pay a professional to do it for you.

No matter who does it, just make sure that car maintenance is done on time to prevent problems from happening.

 

What to Put in Your Car’s Emergency Preparedness Kit

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What to Put in Your Car's Emergency Preparedness Kit | Swerve Driving SchoolMaking an emergency preparedness kit for your car is so important that you should put one in each of your family’s vehicles. When putting together your kit, there are three categories of items you should consider; medical, breakdowns, and emergency supplies.

Medical

Medical emergencies can happen any time, any place, even in your car. If you get in a car crash or drive up to crash, you will be glad that you have some basic medical supplies on hand until help arrives.

If you are out for the day in the mountains or spending the day at the beach, injuries can happen there too and having some first aid items in your car can be very useful. Plenty of big box stores have pre-made first aid kits to buy, or you can make your own. If you decide to put your own first aid kit together, consider the following items:

  • Band-Aids
  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Burn cream
  • Gauze pads
  • Ace Bandage Wrap
  • Anti-diarrheal medicine
  • Antacids
  • Pain medication such as Tylenol or Aspirin
  • Antiseptic
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Hand sanitizer

Store all items in a container that closes securely. Rotate items that have an expiration date and keep the kit in your car.

Breakdowns

Cars are something that everyone hopes will always work properly, there are times that they won’t start or have something break while on the road. While you can’t anticipate everything that can go wrong, there are some basic supplies to keep in your car, like

  • Jumper cables
  • Spare tire
  • Tire iron and jack
  • Flashlight
  • Tool kit
  • Road flares

Even if you don’t know how to fix your car, it is a good idea to keep these items in it so you have the things you need if someone pulls over to help you.

Emergency Supplies

Some items that are good for your car for unanticipated emergencies are bottles of water, long-lasting food items, and extra clothing. If you are ever stranded or find yourself in a remote area, it is a good idea to have bottled water for drinking, pouring in your radiator, or washing off an injury.

In this instance, you might need food as well, so consider keeping granola bars, jerky, crackers, or other items that last a while in your car. Extra clothing such as a poncho, sweatshirt, jacket, socks, or even some extra shoes for if you need to layer up or walk a long distance for gas.

Other Things to Consider

Depending on where you live, there are other items you should consider. Live in a snowy environment? Add an extra ice scraper to your back seat and pack some extra blankets. If you live in a hot climate, make sure you have a lot of extra water in your car and a hat.

The time of life you are in is also something to consider. If you have a young family, keep an extra pack of diapers, some formula, and toys in the car. No matter what you include in your emergency preparedness kit, just be sure to pack one and be intentional about your items.

Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving: Maintenance Checklist

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Prepare Your Car for Winter Driving | Swerve Driving SchoolAs the colder weather sets in, it is a good time to start getting your car ready for winter. This is helpful if you live in a cold weather place or if you are planning to travel to colder weather for the holidays. Here is a checklist for getting your car winter ready.

1. Get an oil change.

Oil gets thicker as the weather gets colder, making it harder to keep your engine properly lubricated. It is more important than ever to make sure that you don’t go over the recommended limit, according to your owner’s manual. If you are close and winter is approaching, use this as a time to get it changed anyway.

2. Change your wiper blades.

The last place you want to be when you discover your wiper blades need to be replaced is in a storm. Keep your visibility clear by checking and changing your wiper blades as the weather cools down.

3. Have a car checkup.

Take your car into a trusted mechanic and have them give your car a checkup. They can check the battery’s ability to hold a charge and its connectors for corrosion. Look over the belts and hoses for wear and leaks. Cold weather can be hard on these car parts and making sure they are in good enough condition to last the season.

4. Check your tires.

One of the more important things your car needs during bad weather is good tires. There are two important qualities you are checking for on your tires, the tread, and the pressure.

The tread is important because the less you have, the less traction you will have on the road. When driving through wet or icy conditions, traction is important in keeping control of your car.

Tire pressure is also important for traction. In colder weather, the pressure will drop slightly, making the ability to control your car more difficult. If you live in an area that often gets deep snow, consider switching to snow tires or carrying chains around just in case you need them.

5. Try your four-wheel drive.

Most drivers don’t use four-wheel drive during the summer months, so make sure it is working properly by turning it on before you need it. Review how to turn it on and check that it engages and disengages easily.

6. Mix your antifreeze.

Antifreeze is critical to making sure that your radiator doesn’t freeze, even in arctic temperatures. Having the correct mixture of antifreeze and water is critical. Talk to a trusted mechanic or to help check and mix it correctly and to properly dispose of your old antifreeze.

7. Prepare for the worst.

Keep extra items in your car that might be required on the road, such as an extra pair of wiper blades, equipment to change a tire, a flashlight, water bottles, and some snacks. If possible, also have an external charger for your phone, just in case you need it.

 

These steps are a great starting checklist for getting your car ready for winter. If you talk to a mechanic or think of other things you can do to help prepare, make your own list. Keep a list somewhere safe so you can refer to it next winter.

Driving Responsibly with Holiday Drinking

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Driving Responsibly with Holiday Drinking | Swerve Driving SchoolDuring the holidays, there are a lot of parties for family, neighborhoods, work, and more. At many of these functions, there is alcohol being served, which leads to some dangerous situations.

The day before Thanksgiving kicks off the season of drunk drivers. It is even called “Black Wednesday” because it is such a popular drinking holiday. Bars are often busy with college students just out from school for the break and as people get ready to spend the next day with family. From Black Wednesday to New Year’s Day, with spikes on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve, account for the days with the most extreme alcohol consumption. No matter what day you are out celebrating, here are some tips for driving responsibly with holiday drinking.

Make a plan.

If you know that you are going to be drinking at a party, have a ride arranged before you go. Family and friends can all switch off being the designated driver so that everyone gets to enjoy drinking at some point.

Another option is to arrange to have a friend pick you up and bring you home if they are in the area. If you don’t have someone to be your designated driver and still want to drink, be prepared to get a ride home by calling a ride share service or cab.

Know what you’re drinking.

A lot of parties have punch bowls full of pre-mixed drinks. Some are alcoholic, some are not. If you plan to drive yourself home, don’t make assumptions about what you’re drinking. Always ask the party host what is in the drink before you grab a glass and ask for something non-alcoholic if you’re driving.

Don’t drink too much.

If you know that you are going to a party to drink, remember to drink responsibly. Decide how much you are going to drink beforehand, sip your drink, and make sure you eat food with your beverage. A good rule of thumb is one drink per hour while eating food to help metabolize the alcohol best.

The purpose of holiday parties isn’t just to get drunk or a way to cope with family drama. Having too much alcohol can impair more than your ability to drive, but also your judgement. Drinking responsibly can help you stick to the safety plan you made before going to the party.

Take care of others.

While it isn’t required that you make sure no one drinks and then drives a car, it is great to have someone watching out. Offer to give a friend, coworker, or family member a ride home if you notice that they have been drinking.

If giving a ride is inappropriate or they refuse the offer, help arrange a different way for them to get home. As the old tagline says, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” and you could save a life by keeping them from behind the wheel of a car.

 

Just because you choose to drive responsibly during the holidays doesn’t mean that you won’t have any fun. Take time to celebrate and enjoy the season but do it while being smart. Don’t ever drive if you have been drinking and do what you can to encourage others to be responsible too.

5 Tips for Dealing with Heavy Holiday Traffic

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5 Tips for Dealing with Heavy Holiday Traffic | Swerve Driving SchoolMore drivers are out on the road during the holiday season. Whether it’s driving to a holiday party, family function, or going out shopping, there are many reasons why the roads are more congested. If you are out in the holiday traffic for any reason, here are five tips you can use to deal with the traffic and keep yourself safe.

Plan Ahead

Timing is everything for road trips. Whether you are driving over the river and through the woods or to an entirely different state, always give yourself some extra time to travel. Since everyone is out on the roads heading to their holiday parties, there will be heavier traffic than normal.

Depending on where you are, the weather might also slow you down. If you give yourself plenty of extra time for traveling, you will feel less stressed and hurried while you’re driving. This helps keep frustrated feelings at bay, limiting risky driving maneuvers and yelling at other drivers. One tip for planning ahead is to try and plan to be in the biggest cities or the areas of construction during a time that isn’t quite so busy.

Keep Calm

One way to deal with holiday traffic is to bring things along in the car for entertaining. For kids, bring movies, games, snacks, and anything else to keep them busy and distracted during a long car drive.

The driver should always stay focused on the road and avoid using cell phones or looking away from the road. Just plan to have something to help you pass the time if you hit traffic that you know can help keep you calm and happy in the car.

Be Intentional

Heavy traffic is stressful and causes some drivers to throw common courtesy out the window. During a time when things are supposed to be merry and bright, it’s important to still be considerate and follow the driving laws. Use your signals when you are switching lanes or turning, give the driver in front of you space, and drive slowly. Don’t forget the basics of driving just because you are in a hurry or there are more cars on the road.

Drive Proactively

To boil down this point to a catchphrase, “expect the unexpected” is a good thing to remember. While you can’t control what other drivers are doing on the road around you, it is possible to attempt to anticipate their movements.

If you see a driver up ahead constantly looking over their left shoulder, you know that they probably want to switch lanes. If you are watching and trying to anticipate other driver’s movements, especially in heavy traffic, you can keep yourself safe if they make a mistake.

Take Breaks

Sitting in traffic for long stretches of time is exhausting to you physically and mentally. Make sure you take breaks from sitting too long. Taking occasional stops are great for stretching out your legs, refreshing the mind, and searching for alternate routes. Be sure that you are not letting yourself get too tired behind the wheel. Tired driving is another form of impaired driving, so switch up drivers or pull off the road for a nap if you need it.

 

While the holidays are a time for love, family, and celebrating, make sure that you get to all your destinations safely. With so many people on the road, it’s better to keep your guard up and your driving skills sharp, while still avoiding conflict and car crashes.

5 Steps to Make Parallel Parking Simple

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5 Steps to Make Parallel Parking Simple | Swerve Driving SchoolParallel parking is a required part of driver’s education. Since many students have heard it is difficult, they are scared to even try it. While it does take some skill to master this parking maneuver, it is possible to do it with some practice, patience, and confidence. If you remember the following five steps to parallel parking, you can not only do it the right way but also feel comfortable doing it.

Watch the Space

Too many drivers make parallel parking difficult for themselves by choosing a spot that isn’t big enough for their vehicle. Before you even try to pull into a spot, make sure it has enough space that you feel comfortable trying to park there. One great way to see if it’s big enough is to notice how big your car is as you are slowly passing the spot. Will you have enough space to straighten out your car in the spot? Is there space for the cars in front and behind you to get out without hitting your car?

If you see that it will be a tight fit, keep driving. It might take some extra time to find another spot or walk to your destination, but it is worth avoiding the damage or holding up traffic.

Signal and Position

It’s important that you let the cars around you know that you intend to park in the open spot, so turn on your blinker toward the curb. Pull up next to the car you will park behind, lining up your back bumper to theirs. This helps you get in the right angle to pull your car in quickly and easily.

Look and Steer

Use your rearview mirrors and look over your right shoulder to get a clear view of the area as you back up. Slowly direct your car to the back-right corner of the parking spot. As you become lined up with the vehicle’s rear bumper in front of you, start to straighten out your vehicle while continuing to back up slowly.

Center the Wheel

Once you are in the parking space, turn your wheel left to straighten it out. Double check that you won’t hit the bumper of the car in front of you as you finish pulling in.

Center Your Car

Adjust your vehicle so that you are centered between the two cars, making sure that once again, they both have the space they need to pull out of their parking spot without hitting your vehicle.

 

Once these five simple steps are complete, you can safely exit your car and go on with your business. Learning which spots you can fit into and how to do the steps properly will take time. The good news is that the more you practice, the easier it will become.

If it makes you more comfortable, practice with orange cones before trying to park between actual cars. Stay calm while you park and before you know it, you will be parallel parking like a professional.