By on May 15, 2019

2016 Toyota RAV4 Interior steering wheel

Your author failed his first driver’s test, but the blame falls not on an overall lack of precision and orientation on the part of the driver, but General Motors’ atrocious first-generation anti-lock braking system. “Stop” pedal bending to the floor, the sedan rolled sedately through the snowy intersection at a glacial 5 mph, happily confident in the knowledge that preventing even a millimeter of tire slide was a better outcome than actually stopping within a reasonable distance.

Opening the door and dragging my foot on the ground, Flintstones-style, may have proved more effective in slowing the car.

Michigan drivers might still face such a scenario when the time comes to secure their license, but proposed legislation might ensure they never have to take the dreaded parallel parking test.

House Bill 4976, currently under study by the Committee on Transportation, would eliminate the parallel parking requirement from the state’s driving test. Introduced by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport) on May 9th, the bill stems from constituents who complained about dropping $50, only to have their dream of a driver’s license sunk by that particular test.

“It’s a money game,” Lightner told ABC affiliate WZZM. “It’s becoming an outdated practice. If you do have a parallel parking issue, if you can’t fit, drive around the block.”

Truth be told, my mother hasn’t parallel parked once in the decades since her driver’s test, except in circumstances where the street is half empty. Judging where the corners of the vehicle are while maneuvering in reverse takes some skill, though most drivers prefer pulling into spots nose-first.

Still, the skill required in cinching the maneuver has farther-reaching ramifications. Is knowing how to parallel park vital to the operation of a motor vehicle? Perhaps in urban centers, though Lightner remarked that, in her area, angled parking is a more popular form of parking. Other states, including neighboring Ohio, have already scrapped the test requirement.

Not surprisingly, Dave Muma, owner of Century Driving, feels the test is essential for identifying if a driver has basic skills.

“The state of Michigan with the road tests is looking for really four components: Do you know how far your front end sticks out? Do you know how far your back end sticks out? Do you know how to back up to your right side? Do you know how to back up to your left side?” Muma said. “In these exercises and how they’re being asked to be performed, these are the easiest ways to do that.”

Under the proposed legislation, parallel parking would still be part of the driver training curriculum. It just wouldn’t appear in the test. Muma remains concerned that adult drivers who aren’t required to take the beginner segments of the course would lose out on what he feels is required knowledge.

As Michigan weighs whether to drop the test, several automakers have already made the skill redundant, building parallel parking aids into their suite of driver-assist features. Turning down the stereo to listen (fearfully) for that tell-tale scraping noise could one day become a thing of the past.

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34 Comments on “Aspiring Michigan Drivers Could See Their Wish Come True...”


  • avatar
    Vulpine

    Modern technology (i.e. mandatory backup cameras on all vehicles) should make parallel parking easy. Oh, you still have to know how but now you don’t have to worry about ‘feeling’ for that back bumper location.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    PP killed my first license test back in 1987, but I got it right the second time.

    I got quite a bit better at it after working in DC for a couple of years. I can fit a car with less than a foot of spare room now.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Yeah keep dumbing it down. Actually no one dies from parallel parking, but to pass the test, all drivers should demonstrate they can restart a stalled car “in motion”, yes without stopping first to put it Park. Of course this involves using the scary and mysterious Neutral.

    This is nothing crazy, just the most basic sh!t Americans still die from every day.

    • 0 avatar
      ravenuer

      Assume you’re talking about your 62 Bel Air. I’m pretty sure my new Lexus would prefer to be in Park and my foot firmly on the brake pedal before it would think about starting. But then, I’ve never tried it.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    We should be making the test harder, not easier.

    The only change to the parallel parking portion is that it should be timed and/or the person administering the test should keep yelling “hurry up” or perhaps honk a horn.

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    Last month I saw somebody drive around the block FOUR times in her new Navigator, using auto park and failed on her first 3 attempts. It was VERY hard not to laugh, it was very sad!

  • avatar
    thegamper

    Parallel parking is hardly a skill used in everyday driving, but I believe it should be included in the test. Not simply for the basic reason of finding a parking spot, but because it is test of basic skill, spatial awareness, coordination……all things that you WILL need to be a successful driver and hopefully live an accident free life.

  • avatar
    SPPPP

    That’s interesting that the driving instructor failed you for a vehicle design flaw. Maybe the thought was that you had been driving the car long enough that you should have figured out how to work around the flaws.

    I can report that GM’s second (or even third?) ABS system was little better. I had the same experience in a 1999 Olds Intrigue. The traction control was awful too. Safety merits debatable for both systems.

    Now that I think about it, it also had the ignition switch issue like the Cobalt. And the brake, transmission, and fuel lines rusted to the point of failure over 13 years. Both of those could have killed someone in the wrong circumstances. NHTSA investigated, but chickened out without making GM recall all the vehicles for the substandard terne coating on the steel lines.

    And the engine spit out a balance shaft bearing. And the transmission failed.

    Good car, though, the rest of the time.

    • 0 avatar
      Featherston

      Kid drives too fast for conditions/misjudges distance, blows through stop sign, rightfully fails driver’s test, and then blames car. OK then . . . .

      • 0 avatar
        SPPPP

        So you haven’t experienced the joys of rolling down a shallow hill in light snow at 5 mph with ABS joyfully pulsing the entire way?

        These rudimentary GM systems are so choice. If you have the means (and can find one that hasn’t been scrapped), I highly recommend that you pick one up.

        • 0 avatar
          PrincipalDan

          @SPPPP – my Toyota does the same thing unless I engage DAC (Descent Acceleration Control)

          • 0 avatar
            SPPPP

            Interesting. At least you get a button to fix the problem! Even though it may not be easy for all drivers to find when the actual situation takes place and adrenaline surges.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    No no no no no.

    Until people stop clipping corners or parking by feel and ruining my car with their s**t driving skills, make this test even harder.

    This thing is NOT hard with a little bit of practice. As in not hard at all.

    If they get rid of this test then I suggest they put on the test a question about what to do when you hit my car. Leave a note, what information needs to be on that note. What your lack of driving ability is likely to cost you in insurance premium increases or what a damaged bumper is going to cost you in cash to repair etc.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    No matter. In a few years a driver’s license will be as important and useful as an elevator operator’s license.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Well, it may take more than a few years to overthrow the government. In the meantime, a driver’s license is useful for cashing checks, renting cars, using credit cards, buying booze, and getting past the bouncer in nightclubs.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I’ve always had small cars with good visibility so I don’t understand how anyone could be challenged by parallel parking. That being said, does anyone really parallel park today given the lack of bumpers on at least the front end of most cars?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      There are bumpers under the plastic, front and rear. They’re ugly and people prefer body colored covering, while automakers prefer plastic to expensive chromed stamped steel.

      I’ve had cars with good visibility too, but my current car is 15 years old. The cars I’ve rented have virtually zero visibility out the rear window.

      I was on a freeway-to-freeway ramp in one rental, and didn’t even know I was being tailgated until I was on the curve and noticed the idiot in my side view mirror.

      The rental had no backup camera, and most cars on the road today don’t either. The latest tech is just that, the latest, not the most common.

      BTW, why are you concerned about cars with no discernable front bumper while parallel parking? You’re supposed to park between cars without hitting them.

      • 0 avatar
        Featherston

        “They’re ugly and people prefer body colored covering, while automakers prefer plastic to expensive chromed stamped steel.” Meh, no and yes. The vast majority of the buying public prefer what the marketing hucksters tell them to prefer, whether that be matte black, body-colored paint, or 1950s-style chrome. No one’s holding his breath for 5-mph bumpers; they’re heavy, and I assume they’re incompatible with modern crumple zones. However, the industry *could* make bumper covers with effective rub strips that prevent gouges and paint scratches. They choose not to because bumper damage is a net win for all parties involved except vehicle owners.

        “You’re supposed to park between cars without hitting them.” I can park between cars without hitting them. However, I don’t live in a magical world where other people don’t park by ear.

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Ohio still has a “maneuverability test,” where you drive through a marked set of four cones, then drive left or right around a fifth cone as directed by the examiner and stop with the rear bumper roughly even with and parallel to the course. Then you reverse back through the course, stopping with the front bumper even with the first two cones. Stopping to check progress, knocking down a cone, or not stopping parallel to the course after the first portion is an immediate fail.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      came here to say that.

      To pass legislation based on saying “Ohio dropped theirs!” in a vacuum, with zero context, is the height of irresponsibility.

      Also, business as usual with elected officials whose sole skill in life is…getting elected.

  • avatar
    retrocrank

    Fine with me, as one possible solution. Present system allows too many unqualified hominids to drive without fear of serious consequence.
    Either make drivers license a mail order thing with no testing AND have draconian penalties for damaging property or life with a car,
    Or insist on difficult, expensive and expert driver training available only to those who can pass a threshold mental stability/cognitive ability test, and then eliminate all traffic laws as the five people who actually get licensed will figure it out, without external regulation.

  • avatar
    Mike-NB2

    Parallel parking is a task most of us either never have to use or generally avoid. But… I wouldn’t be in favour of dropping it. This isn’t because it’s a useful skill but because it demonstrates that a person has an ability to control the vehicle in a tight space. I ALWAYS back into parking spots so that I don’t have to back into traffic. In my opinion, backing into traffic is among the dumbest things you can do in a car – camera or not. But I’ve seen so many people who don’t even have the ability to drive into a spot that I wonder what they’d do if a crisis quickly unfolded in front of them as they drove. But I probably know the answer to this – most people don’t have the ability to assess when hard braking might just be the wrong thing to do.

    As someone said above, the tests should be harder and not easier. And I support mandatory re-testing too. (Maybe, just maybe, with re-testing people could be reminded to use their signal lights occasionally and that the left lane on highways is for overtaking vehicles and not for Toyotaing along with your turn signal on for miles on end.)

    • 0 avatar
      SPPPP

      You know what? If parallel parking is no longer relevant because most people park in rows now, then they should TRAIN FOR THAT. Make the student park between two cars and get out of the car. Touch the other car with your door, you fail.

      If the student has a physical ailment or is of such a large size that they can’t get out of the car without hitting the car next to them, issue them a HP tag. The HP spots sit unused 90% of the time at most of the parking lots I see. The few places that actually fill the HP spaces should add more, but the rest of the places are just wasting space.

      The cost to society in reduced door dings and insurance payouts should make this worthwhile.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    Maybe with all the text-happy drivers out there, the parallel parking test should be replaced with a test to operate a vehicle in traffic while texting without leaving one’s lane, running a light/stop sign, or dropping more than 5mph below the posted speed limit.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Doug Stanhope had a great idea: give me the driver’s test with ever increasing volumes of alcohol in my blood. If I can pass it with a 0.11, then that’s what my license should say and allow me for.

  • avatar
    MBella

    Since I don’t live in a city, I don’t have to do it regularly, but occasionally enough. Even if I never had to parallel park after my driving test, I agree that it shows basic competency while operating a 2 ton weapon. The task isn’t that difficult. I don’t see how you can argue that a driver is able to operate a motor vehicle without performing this simple task.

  • avatar
    tomLU86

    Garrett’s got it.

    Mediocre drivers have mediocre expectations, and that’s why the Detroit three turn out mediocre products.

  • avatar
    theflyersfan

    In Kentucky’s “never leave the DMV parking lot” driver’s test, parallel parking is still done. If your car has a backup camera, they cover the screen with cardboard. So if you’re in a Camaro, Land Rover, or any other car with a mail slot rear window, good luck. Of course their parallel parking slot can hold a Ford F-350 towing a double-wide so if you fail that part…maybe you shouldn’t be driving in the first place! Of course this easy testing (again – never leaving the parking lot!!!) might explain the wonderful drivers of this area…


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