Parking spots are hard to come by in the District, and even harder when a less-than-able driver takes up more space than their vehicle is due. Yet for most residents, commuters and shoppers, the ability to parallel park along busy side streets is a necessary skill.
But proving such an ability is curiously missing from the D.C. road test. The Department of Motor Vehicle’s website claims it’s still a requirement, but the department admitted Tuesday that it has been letting prospective drivers off the hook for the past three years. They test parking skills, just not parallel parking skills.
“It’s startling to say the least,” said Maryland resident Hasan Solomon after squeezing his Ford Explorer into a tight spot along New Jersey Avenue. “It should be a mandatory part of the exam. I think you can look at back bumpers and front bumpers and see the effects.”
The revelation came this week in a live chat when a Capitol Hill resident voiced concern over inept parkers taking up more than their fair share of space and causing overflows down the road. The DMV admitted that, “due to site constraints,” it was currently not testing future drivers for the skill. They did plan to add it within the next year, however, Director Lucinda Babers said in the chat on the DMV’s website.
“I would say that clearly we’re aware that parallel parking should be a part of our road test, and we’ve been working on identifying sites ever since I’ve been here,” Babers said.
The DMV gives road tests out of a site on Brentwood Road in Northeast Washington. Unlike Maryland and Virginia-area road test sites, however, the site doesn’t have a lot large enough for parallel parking.
Currently, Florida is the only state that doesn’t require parallel parking as part of its road tests.
“It’s part of the basic driver’s education classes that most people take,” said John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Number one, [parallel parking] shows that the driver can mechanically control the vehicle. Number two, it helps to determine proficiency in driving. To be able to drive well you have to be able to properly and effectively steer the vehicle using your mirrors. And number three, it gives the opportunity for the person who’s giving the test to see how a person can use their vehicle.”
There’s an acute shortage of parking in the city, Townsend said. With more meters than lots, it could lead to an increase in minor parking incidents, he said.
“I remember that being the hardest part of my exam,” Lincoln Park resident Howard Park said. “It’s certainly not the biggest issue in this city, but you have to do it sometimes and you don’t want people taking up the road or sticking out where they can get hit.”