Maryland removes parallel parking from driving test, sparking safety concerns

Maryland has become the most recent state to drop the parallel-parking requirement from its road test, sparking debate about whether the next generation of motorists will be adequately prepared to safely navigate streets.

Buel Young, a Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration spokesman, said the requirement was officially removed May 19 after state officials had determined the maneuvers and skills required to parallel park -- which include backing up, using mirrors and depth perception -- were already being evaluated in other parts of the test.

However, the decision, which follows similar ones reportedly in California, Florida, Virginia and the District of Columbia, is raising concerns among such groups as AAA Mid-Atlantic.

“If you’re driving in a major city, you have to know how to parallel park,” group spokesman John Townsend said Saturday, pointing out that the District has 17,000 metered, curb-side parking spots. “We don’t all go to the shopping mall.”

Townsend also said the parking part of the tryout most "terrified” him and countless other teens, which made everybody practice intensely. And it was a great test of eye-hand coordination, he argued.

Private driving coaches and others have speculated that Maryland ended the parking requirement because too many teens were flunking that part, which resulted in long waits to take the test because so many applicants were reapplying.

The MVA has been trying to shorten the wait. However, Young told The Baltimore Sun that he was unaware of a connection between that effort and ending the parking requirement. And he declined to speculate on whether the change will reduce the time required to take the test.

"We don't have any data right now because we just instituted” the change, he told the newspaper.

USA Today reports at least a dozen other states -- including Illinois, North Carolina and Oregon -- don't test parallel parking.

Officials say the parking requirement in D.C. test has not been permanently removed, despite a failure to test the skill set for several years.

Young says parallel parking will continue to be a teaching requirement in state-controlled driver's education courses in Maryland.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.