Why do you have to back in when parallel parking?

A STAFF REPORT FROM THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD

Dear Straight Dope:

Why is it necessary (or at least common practice) to back into a parking space while parallel parking? I would think the turning radius would be the same going forward as going backward, and that going forward into the space would be easier because you can see where you're going better. Thoughts?

Dogster replies:

We’ll assume this is a tight space you’re trying to get into. I can’t explain the physics of the answer, but it has to do with the fact the rear tires of a car are locked in a forward/backwards position, while the front wheels can turn. So if by backing in the rear wheels can be properly aligned with the space, the front wheels can turn to accomodate the maneuver. Nosing in, your rear wheels have no chance to get to the position of being parallel with the curb–what are you going to do, roll sideways? I can’t give you scientific reasons for this because I majored in English. But I speak as a veteran of the daily Hoboken Parking Wars … one mile square town, 35,000 people … let the games begin.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

STAFF REPORTS ARE WRITTEN BY THE STRAIGHT DOPE SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, CECIL'S ONLINE AUXILIARY. THOUGH THE SDSAB DOES ITS BEST, THESE COLUMNS ARE EDITED BY ED ZOTTI, NOT CECIL, SO ACCURACYWISE YOU'D BETTER KEEP YOUR FINGERS CROSSED.

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