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Sunday, 8 October 2017

New Driving Test - Parking on the right-hand side.

There's been a lot of media attention around the changes to the U.K. driving test due on 4th December. In this blog I'm going to focus on the 'new' manoeuvre of pulling up on the right-hand side of the road and reversing two car's lengths parallel to the kerb before rejoining any traffic flow on the left and why I think it's a good thing to include on the driving test.

This manoeuvre 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.

It's important to note that it isn't actually against the law to do so, it's just more risky than parking on the left, hence the Highway Code's good advice. If you choose to ignore this advice and cause a collision, this may be used against you to form a prosecution. 

You see, even though rule 239 advises against this, there are often exceptions to rules and 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.

"When you change what you believe, you change what you do" - Spencer Johnson

The mistake made by many, including some driving instructors, is to isolate each rule, which leads to the well-intended yet misguided and steadfast belief that you should NEVER do this. 

Having a really good understanding of the Highway Code, as a whole, helps avoid becoming misguided. If you know rules 239 and rule 248 for example; 

"You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space. Laws CUR reg 101 & RVLR reg 24"

rule 248 clearly tells you not to park against the flow of traffic specifically at night, and for good reason. This time it is against the law, probably because of the additional dangers, such as; dazzling oncoming drivers and displaying the wrong colour reflectors when parked. However, as is often the case, there are exceptions to rules and you need to know that this rule has one - "unless in a recognised parking space."

If the Highway Code advises against this, then why would the DVSA include this in the driving test? Well, I guess that key factors include the real-life 21st century issues 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 haven'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. So, why don't they know it's not always acceptable? Because driver education hasn't focused much attention on this. By including this in the test, driver educators can raise awareness of the risks and produce drivers who can make sound decisions as to when it is necessary, when it is safe and when it is legal.

Is it always safe? No!
Is it always necessary? No!
Is it always legal? No!

It's your responsibility to know when it is!

I'll be focusing on teaching my pupils that despite this being on the test, it's still risky and should only be considered as a last resort and within the legal exceptions.

Parking on the right is not ALWAYS dangerous and therefore you should not be led to believe that you should NEVER do this. However, ONLY do this when you can answer yes to each of those three important questions.

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 (the reverse left and turn-in-the-road are not be part of the new test but are still useful). Most on-road recognised parking places are well lit, however, at night 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. We're not advocating that you park there as a matter of habit or because "I live here." 

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. 

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