Street Smarts

Time and time again you see it – the driver of a tiny Kia or one of those cute Mini Coopers holds up traffic as they – gulp – try to parallel park.

In and out.

Back and forth.

Their face gets red. It starts to turn into an incident. You shake your head.

If you’re lucky, you can pull around them. If not, you’re stuck watching the mortification grow.

Being able to parallel park is a must if you to live in an urban environment, especially in the Puget Sound area, where parking spaces are often as difficult to come by as a sunny day.

I have to admit that I’ve had trouble parallel parking on occasion, and I even lost points on my driver’s test because it took me four maneuvers to squeeze in between the cones rather than the three maneuvers allowed.

Knowing how we’re all in this together, I decided to get help from an expert.

It’s easy, says driving instructor Jason Law, who advised approaching parallel parking like you’re playing pool.

“If you want to make a shot, you have to line up all the angles,” said Law, an instructor at Diamond Driving School in Mountlake Terrace.

So, in a crunch, fall back on the basics, Law said. Here’s what he teaches his beginning parallel students.

* Pull up next to the vehicle in front of the space you’re going to park in. Make sure the back of your car is lined up with the back of the parked vehicle. Also, make sure you’re not too far away from the car.

* Wait. Don’t back up yet. First turn the steering wheel all the way to the right. This will ensure that your car backs in at a 45-degree angle.

* Stop once you’re about 18 inches from the vehicle behind you. Straighten your wheels. If you’re not sure when you’re wheels are straight, get out and take a look – just kidding.

(Law says it takes most cars three rotations of the steering wheel to get from full left to full right, so turn the wheel left one and a half times.)

Next, move forward until the front of your car is 18 inches from the car in front of you.

* After you stop, turn the wheel all the way to the left, then back until your car is straight. Stop, straighten the wheels again, and then move the car to the middle of the spot.

Law says to remember to use your mirror and look over your shoulder before you back up.

He said it’s important to remember that each parallel parking opportunity is different, but that if you follow the basic steps outlined above, you’ll be OK.

Seems like a problem

Question: My daughter lives on Winton Avenue in north Everett. I just noticed that, when driving down Sixth Street in that neighborhood, there appears to be no stop sign at Sixth Street and Wayne Avenue. This looks like an accident waiting to happen with no stop sign on either street.

Hazel Gasper, Everett

Answer: City engineers consider traffic volume, collision history and national standards in determining when a stop sign is needed. Stops signs are not used at all intersections. In fact, several intersections in the neighborhood are uncontrolled and function quite well, such as this one. Your question provides us an excellent opportunity to remind drivers of the right-hand rule – which means you yield to the vehicle on the right.

Ryan Sass, Everett city engineer

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Have a question about what’s happening on a road near you? E-mail The Herald at stsmarts@ heraldnet. com.

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