Why doesn't Florida make new drivers prove they can parallel park?

A car parallel parks on First Ave S in downtown St. Petersburg Wednesday, August 12, 2015.
A car parallel parks on First Ave S in downtown St. Petersburg Wednesday, August 12, 2015. JOHN PENDYGRAFT | TIMES
Published Aug. 15, 2015

Check your rearview mirror. Line up with the car in front of your desired parking spot. Turn your steering wheel all the way to the right. Shift into reverse and start backing into the parking space.

Sounds easy enough.

But if you take a stroll around downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg, you'll notice cars crookedly parked on the street with tires precariously close to (or over) the white line.

New drivers in Florida aren't required to know how to parallel park. Why?

Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Nancy Rasmussen said the agency dropped the parallel parking requirement 25 years ago "because there were very few areas around the state that had a need for it."

With the continued urban and suburban sprawl since, has the state considered re-examining the rules and requiring new drivers to show parallel parking skills?

"We have not discussed bringing it back," Rasmussen said.

Earlier this month, a report found a record number of Florida residents — 60 percent — flunked the written portion of the driver's license test this year.

But is the on-road portion challenging enough?

If you ask Robert Dillman, the owner of NEVO Driving Academy in Tampa, the answer is no. He said he wishes parallel parking was still on the state exam.

"It would be nice to have it back on the test," he said. "I think the test as it stands right now is too easy."

He said all of the students at his driving school learn how to parallel park.

Back in 1990, then-director of the state's Driver License Division Jim Cox told the Times that some drivers used parallel parking only during the license test.

"We can learn as much about the driver with the straight-in parking without the hassle," Cox said in the interview.

According to USA Today, Florida is one of 15 states with a statewide driving test that doesn't require parallel parking.

Other population-dense states without the requirement include California, Illinois and Ohio.

Less surprisingly, Maine, South Dakota and Wyoming also don't include the maneuver on tests.

Dennis Hinebaugh is the interim director of the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida. He hasn't officially researched the license exam, but he offered some speculation.

Because of the limited time instructors have with new drivers, he said, parallel parking might not be the best way to see whether someone can safely operate a car.

"With automated parking and rear cameras," he said, "it is even less of a concern in discerning capable drivers."

Dillman, the driving school owner, said he thinks it's important for drivers to know the move to get a "better understanding of how cars maneuver."

For now, Florida has no plans to test for parallel parking any time soon.

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Contact Ayana Stewart at or (727) 445-4153. Follow @AyanaStewart.