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Do Younger People Know How to Parallel Park?

Not long ago, one easy way to impress your friends was to parallel park without a hitch. Nowadays, no one seems to care, and some even dread the idea.

Parallel parking is an acquired skill that becomes easier with time. It saves space on congested roadways and allows more city dwellers to own a car without paying for parking.

So why are many young people anxious about parallel parking? Do they even try to learn? 

We’ve got the answers, so let’s drive on!

What is Parallel Parking?

Parallel parking is when you park your car along the curb, parallel to the road. Simple concept, right? Well, that depends on where you live. Curbside parking is a must in New York and San Francisco because parking is extremely limited. In rural areas, on the other hand, shops with parking lots and homes with driveways are standard. So parallel parking is rare.

Street parking can become second nature once you get the hang of it. Once you find a spot, line up your car with the vehicle in front of your chosen space. Check your mirrors, hit reverse, and turn your wheels sharply 90 degrees to turn into the area. Cut your wheel to about 45 degrees in the other direction once ¾ of your car is almost curbside. Straighten out, and voila!

It’s often easier said than done, though.

Best practice when you parallel park is to leave 12-18 inches from the curb and about 12 inches between the two other vehicles. Some parking pros can park with even less space between cars. Saving street space and keeping it safe is the ultimate goal.

Teen driver learning how to parallel park
Parallel parking is not an easy skill for any generation to learn.

Is Gen Z Driving Less than Previous Generations?

Remember how we said parallel parking is a must in some places? Well, that’s changing. Even in some big cities! People have many more options these days to get from a to b.

Not only are Gen Zers happy to use public transportation, but they love their ride-share apps. Uber, Lyft, and Waze Carpool are just a few examples. And, generally, they’re more concerned about the environment than the car-loving boomer generation.

In fact, many Gen Zers are afraid to parallel park!

Back in the day, getting your driver’s license was a right of passage kids drooled over. Now, teens are less and less interested in driving at all. According to USA Today, the percentage of 18-year-olds with a driver’s license has dropped almost 20% since the 80s. Many 16-year-olds start to take the standard DMV driver’s test and say NO WAY after about five minutes!

In addition, curbside parking is the most significant stressor for people ages 18-34 as far as driving goes. There are even social media posts on Twitter where younger adults shame people who brag about their excellent parallel parking job. It’s a new world, dear readers.

Pro Tip: Struggling with parallel parking? Use these tips on How to Easily Parallel Park, Seriously.

States are Getting Rid of Curbside Parking Tests

Once upon a time, almost every U.S. state required parallel parking as part of their driver’s license testing. Today, only 31 states require it.

The trend of dropping the state’s street parking test requirement started in 2015. According to some information officers like Nevada’s Kevin Malone, many believe the movement will become a national norm. Nevada dropped their requirements in 2020.

Yet others are bringing it back! The District of Colombia brought back its parallel parking test in May 2021. Officials decided that after a decade of not requiring it, evidence showed the test is essential to protect other drivers and pedestrians

Instead of requiring a curbside parking test, some states add maneuverability tests that theoretically show the same skill set. Ohio’s notorious test, for example, dates back to the 90s. 

They don’t require a parallel parking test. Instead, cones are placed strategically to test the driver’s ability to back up, turn, and drive through coned areas. Don’t knock any cones over, and you’ll be fine!

Cars parallel parking on street
Only about 50% of drivers know how to parallel park.

What Percentage of People Can Parallel Park?

Approximately half of polled Americans can parallel park. And only about half of those are confident in their skills. Those who are self-assured live in the Northeast. And this makes sense! The northeastern states tend to have the narrowest streets and fewest parking lots. 

Midwesterners are the least confident in their curbside parking skills. Fear of holding up traffic, hitting another car, or getting blocked into their spot can grip even the most seasoned drivers. Some report feeling panicked by the thought of bystanders watching and shaming them.

Anxiety around parallel parking is common. There’s even a name for it: Parallelophobia! 

Is Parallel Parking Outdated?

The answer depends on who you ask. If you talk to most gen Z’ers, they’ll say it is. In addition to ride-share options and public transport, some new electronic cars are built with self-parking features. That is if you can afford a Tesla 3.

But if you ask your average Joe with 20+ years of driving experience, they’ll say no. Just take a look at any neighborhood in Brooklyn, San Francisco, or Chicago. We still need to parallel park. 

Critics of the states who no longer require the parallel parking test say legislators just want to speed up test-taking and cut down on retakes. Anything to save a buck, even at the cost of general safety.

Pro Tip: Gonna park your RV for the night? Make sure you don’t commit any of these 7 Deadly Sins of Overnight RV Parking.

So, Do Younger People Know How to Parallel Park?

Fewer and fewer young people know how to parallel park. Many Generation Zers don’t even want to learn how to drive. Gen Z worries about pollution and random bystanders filming their terrible parking jobs. And ride-share apps make it easier to avoid driving altogether. 

What was once a coveted rite of passage is now considered a burden. Look at the classic George Lucas film American Graffiti to see how times have changed. We think it’s pretty remarkable!

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