The Most Difficult Driving Manoeuvres

More than 1.5 million people took their driving test in the UK during 2022 – with only 48.9% of drivers passing their test. According to the DVSA, there are several common reasons why people fail their practical driving test, from not using mirrors correctly to not maintaining control of the vehicle. However, another common reason why drivers may be marked down on, or inevitably fail their driving test, is due to mistakes being made during one of the many manoeuvres that learners could be made to perform during an assessment.

Whether you’re learning to drive or have already passed your test, we wanted to discover which manoeuvres motorists struggle with most – and so we did some digging to find out…

A woman adjusts the rear view mirror in her car

Parallel Parking Is The Most Confusing Driving Manoeuvre

To find out which manoeuvres drivers we’re searching for help with most, we analysed Google search data, and found that it was the famously difficult parallel park which was stumping motorists most. Google search data revealed that over 81,000 searches are made each year in the UK for help with the manoeuvre – which is a method of parking your car parallel to the road, usually amongst a line of other vehicles alongside a kerb or wall. The driving skill is vital for securing a parking spot on a busy road, and so can often become second nature after a lot of practice or out of necessity. However, this method is notoriously one of the more challenging to master for many people who are learning to drive.

Following as the second and third most confusing driving manoeuvres were bay parking (almost 60,000 annual searches) and an emergency stop (over 26,000 searches each year). While an emergency stop generally only takes place during emergencies (as the name suggests), bay parking – a method of manoeuvring your vehicle into a parking space, either in reverse or forward – is a skill most drivers will use in their day-to-day lives, and therefore is vital to master ahead of a final driving test

Rounding off the top five most difficult manoeuvres was a turn in the road (also known as a ‘three-point turn’) – with over 18,000 people searching for the manoeuvre, which involves motorists having to turn a vehicle around on a road which is too narrow to perform a U-turn on. Finally, a reverse around a corner only receives just under 4,000 people searching for it each year. As of 2017, learner drivers in the UK were no longer asked to perform a turn in the road or a reverse around the corner as one of the manoeuvres during a driving test, however, with motorists often having to use these driving skills in their everyday lives, it’s important to know how to do them – just in case.

Driving manoeuvreAnnual average searches (UK)
Parallel parking81,720
Bay parking59,640
Emergency stop26,280
Turn in the road or three-point turn18,360
Reverse around a corner3,960

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How To Perfect A Parallel Park? 

With tens of thousands of drivers searching for tips on how to nail some of the most difficult parking exercises each year, we’ve enlisted the help and expertise of experienced driving instructor Adrian Wilkinson, from Sussex-based driving school Driving Ambition UK. Read on for Adrian’s top tips on how to become a parking pro.

Adrian’s tips on how to complete a perfect parallel park:  

“These instructions are based on using a Ford Fiesta or similar size car – reference points for smaller or larger cars will need adjusting. To help with this and other manoeuvres, you’ll need blind spot or disc mirrors attached to the lower outside edge of both door mirrors.

  1. Firstly, select your ‘target’ vehicle with enough space behind it for you to carry out your parallel park, then pull up behind the target vehicle with enough space to move off.
  2. When clear and safe, check all around you, indicate right and move off slowly. Once you’ve cleared the corner of the target vehicle, swap the indicator from right to left – this shows that you plan to stop next to the vehicle in order to park.
  3. Pull up parallel to the target vehicle, about 1.5 feet (half a door’s width) away from it, with your wheels straight.
  4. As you straighten your wheels, your left indicator will have switched off. Put it on again, secure the handbrake and select reverse gear.
  5. When safe to do so, reverse slowly in a straight line until your back seat head restraints are in line with the end of the target vehicle. The end of your car should be just beyond the end of the target vehicle.
  6. Stop, check around and, if safe, start to reverse slowly, steering one full turn of the wheel to the left.
  7. When your car is at a 45-degree angle to the target vehicle, you’ll see in the left disc mirror the passenger side door handle looks as if it’s just touching the edge of the kerb. Steer back two turns of the wheel to the right, matching the steering to the speed of your car.
  8. Sometimes you may need to make an adjustment at this stage of the manoeuvre:
    1. If you’re too near the kerb – Steer full lock right and this should allow you to end up parallel to the kerb. If you’re still too close – stop, select first gear and move away from the kerb. As you clear the corner of the target vehicle, steer one turn to the left and stop when you see the door handle in the mirror touching the edge of the kerb. Then, reverse back, steering one turn to the right.
    2. If you’re too far away from the kerb – Pause, check around and when safe to do so, steer quickly two turns to the left. Once you can see the front door handle in the left disc mirror looking as if it’s touching the edge of the kerb, quickly steer two turns back to the right.
  9. Once you’re in line with the target vehicle and parallel to the kerb, steer one turn quickly to the left to straighten your front wheels. Stop, secure the hand brake and go into neutral. You should have now completed a perfect parallel park!
  10. Please note, if at any time during the manoeuvre another vehicle, bike or pedestrian approaches your car, be sure to stop, assess and then continue when safe.

Adrian continues “The parallel park is the most complex of the manoeuvres because it has more steering and reference points to remember than other types of parking. However, if drivers ensure that they are practising good clutch control, and completing full observation checks before, during and after the manoeuvre, then the parking exercise should feel much easier to perfect. Rushing any manoeuvre will lead to drivers making more mistakes, so be sure to take your time – it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Aside from technical failures, the main things new drivers get wrong when taking to the roads is a general lack of awareness, anticipation and judgement. In order to improve these skills, and become a better, safer driver, we encourage all of our learners to keep calm, take their time and remain focused at all times when behind the wheel.

If your poor parking has caused significant damage to your vehicle, it may be time for it to hit the scrap heap. If you’re looking to scrap, or sell your vehicle for salvage, don’t hesitate to get a quote today.


To find out the most confusing driving manoeuvres, search volume data was compiled through Google AdWords from Feb 2019 to Jan 2023. Search volume for the following terms were calculated in the UK: ‘[driving manoeuvre]’ and ‘how to do [driving manoeuvre]’. From this data, the search totals for each term were combined, and an average annual search volume was calculated for each driving manoeuvre. 

The driving manoeuvres incorporated into the analysis were: parallel parking; emergency stop; bay parking (the terms ‘bay parking’, ‘reverse bay parking’ and ‘forward bay parking’ were combined to give total search volume); turn in the road or three point turn (the terms ‘turn in the road’ and ‘three point turn’ were combined to give total volumes); and reverse around a corner. All data correct as of March 2023. 

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