Fear of Parking a Car: Why It Happens and How to Overcome It

Do you feel anxiety or stress when it comes to parking a vehicle? This happens to millions of drivers and is a problem that can be tackled with practice and self-confidence.
Fear of Parking a Car: Why It Happens and How to Overcome It
Elena Sanz

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Written by Jonatan Menguez

Last update: 12 December, 2022

Many drivers will agree with the statement that parking is one of the most complex actions while driving. Even more difficult is learning how to do it, an instance that slows down and paralyzes many people, often to the point of abandoning the practice altogether. Fear of parking a car is a widespread problem that requires understanding why it happens and tips to overcome it.

Parking a car is an action that involves extreme concentration and precision, and feelings of fear only worsen the situation. In any case, it’s often necessary to go through a brief period of tension in order to gain the necessary experience to be able to park with patience.

The important thing is that the fear of facing this instance does not stop your practice of driving, something that happens and makes many people give up for years. In principle, it’s a good idea to discover the reasons why this fear occurs and how to overcome it. Once you are more aware, it’s easier to apply tips to overcome the fear of parking a car.

What does aparcophobia, or fear of parking a car, mean?

fear of parking a car
Tight spaces can be a cause of stress when parking.

The fear of parking is so common that many professionals already use a specific term to name it: aparcophobia. Learning how to drive is a time when symptoms of anxiety and stress often occur due to multiple factors. For example, there may be distrust, a lack of experience, low self-esteem, or fear of generating the wrath of other drivers.

All this can generate a fear of facing the situation that leads to the total abandonment of the practice of driving. There are many drivers who go through this, which is why important automotive brands focus their technological development on facilitating parking. According to surveys conducted by the manufacturer Nissan, 27% of British drivers feel insecure when parking.

Alarms to indicate proximity, automatic mirrors, sensors to measure the distance and rear cameras are some of the elements that models have been incorporating. However, although they can make the technique easier, none of them prevents the fear that must be faced to gain experience.

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Where does the fear of parking a car come from?

This is a fear that is as common as it is understandable. Learning to drive is also learning to move through different sensations that produce nerves and stress. Whether due to the fear of causing an accident, the reactions of more experienced drivers, or simple inexperience, driving requires practice and perseverance.

Within this practice, the situation of parking accumulates some of the most feared possibilities, such as causing a line of vehicles or brushing against one already parked. Many drivers develop a parking phobia – even some experienced ones.

However, this fear is much more common in novices who have just finished their driving school course or practice in quiet places. Such a situation changes drastically when taking avenues or busy streets with dozens of parked cars and tight spaces.

This fear brings a negative chain effect, as it produces reluctance to try again. However, practicing is the only way to overcome the instance. In the beginning, support from family or anyone you trust is important. If possible, these people should help the driver in his or her first outings with a vehicle.

What symptoms and consequences does it produce?

Although this is a common problem that is solved by gaining experience, it’s possible that for some drivers it may extend over time. Also, symptoms such as sweating, numbness, chills, palpitations, and even difficulty breathing may be more serious.

These are effects linked to the anxiety and stress of facing a complex situation. In severe cases, therapy is advisable. The fear of parking a car can translate into bad movements generated by the pressure, which end up worsening the action. In addition, it’s possible that it generates the following consequences.

  • Only going to quiet places to practice. What most often happens is that evasive measures are taken to avoid the situation of parking under stress. For example, try driving alone in non-traffic areas or on weekends.
  • Renting expensive parking garages. The person may end up paying unnecessarily high parking fees simply to avoid having to park on the street.
  • Driving at night. Another avoidance behavior may be to drive alone at night when there’s less traffic and more parking space.
  • Taking public transportation. Some drivers choose to partially abandon of the practice, moving instead with public transport in situations where it would be more convenient to do so by car.
  • Total abandonment. Finally, the most serious consequence is frustration that leads to giving up driving for years, which implies losing practice.

Tips to overcome the fear of parking a car

fear of parking a car and how to overcome it
Practice makes perfect. Don’t stop parking your car!

There are several ways to approach the problem in order to gradually improve. It should also be kept in mind that the fear of parking is only overcome with experience. Therefore, the tips focus on facing the stressful situation so that, little by little, it stops being stressful.

Learn the classic technique for parking

There are a number of tricks that remain infallible when parking. It’s true that the pressure of the moment makes the actions difficult, but the more you keep them in mind and apply them, the faster you will improve. In principle, it’s recommended to slow down and place beacons or your lights to warn the driver behind about the movement.

To perform the parallel parking technique, the car should be braked at the same height as the one parked in front. Then, turn the steering wheel all the way around and enter the space. When you reach an angle of 45 degrees, check that the front wheel is in line with the bumper of the car in front of you. Turn the steering wheel all the way to the opposite side and finish getting the vehicle settled, always at a similar distance between the car in front and the car behind.

It’s all about awareness

Do not approach the moment believing that you can avoid anxiety, fear, and stress. For most drivers, they are unavoidable, so be aware and deal with them. One should always try to remain calm and try not to worry about the judgment of others, even if they’re honking their horns.

Lots of practice to overcome the fear of parking a car

If adequate space is available, you can place chairs in the front and back and try to park in the middle. Practice is the only way to improve your technique and gradually erase the feeling of anxiety. Although parking this way is not the same as when there are cars behind, doing it repeatedly increases confidence and ease.

Confidence and memory

It’s these feelings that build confidence that you need to focus on. When positive progress is made in some movements, remember them to facilitate their assimilation and repetition. Then, you can continue through the following steps with a more solid foundation.

There is no right age to learn how to drive

Many people may have relegated learning to drive throughout their lives. This represents an aggravating distrust, due to the feeling of believing that it’s too late to do so. However, there’s no specific age to learn how to drive, and it’s also possible to improve driving and parking skills in older adults.

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Take your time and seek help if needed

One last aspect to take into account is to leave home ahead of schedule. If you’re running late to an important meeting, for instance, the pressure to park quickly will only increase your anxiety. It’s better to take a few minutes to do it patiently.

Also, in cases where it’s very difficult to overcome fears, there are therapists who work on these issues and others related to the stress of driving.

Among these situations, the most important is facing the entrance to a garage, which is often very narrow, or the ascent of a slope, where the engine revolutions must be increased. Psychologists work on these fears by encouraging practice, decision-making, and confidence.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.