How to perform an Emergency Stop

Emergency Stop

Objectives: You should be able to bring the vehicle to a prompt and controlled stop as if a child had run into the road.You should understand why it is important to react quickly and why it is important not to waste time making a mirror check.You should understand that the vehicle will handle differently under hard braking.

On your driving test the examiner will ask you to pull up on the left and then brief you on the emergency stop. He/she will say “Shortly I will be asking you to do the emergency stop as if a child had run out into the road, when I raise my right hand and say stop, you need to react as quickly as possible keeping the car under full control. You may see me look over my shoulder, please do not anticipate the stop until I raise my right hand.”

What to do

No time for mirrors – this increases your thinking time, which increases your overall braking distance.
Quick reaction is needed.
Brake firmly and progressively – harder than normal but do not ‘Slam’ the brake pedal. An indication you have braked firm enough is you should feel a slight forward lurch in your seat.
Clutch down just before you stop – to avoid stalling. Avoid putting the clutch down straight away as this is coasting and will increase your overall stopping distance.
Keep both hands on the wheel – in a real life situation you would brace yourself for impact or try to change direction.
When stopped apply handbrake.

Before moving off

POM, ensure you look over both blind spots too. If there are any vehicles around you – wait to see if they pass, if not then apply a signal to let them know you are moving off.

Skid control

If the back end of your car goes to the left then you steer into it. Be careful of oversteering as you could cause the skid to go the other direction.
If you brake too firmly in older vehicles (2000 or less usually) you may experience the wheels locking, which means you are skidding. To come out of the skid, you should release the pressure on the brake pedal and then re-apply. Repeat this so you are pumping the brake repeatedly and quickly.
If your car has ABS then you are more fortunate, this stands for:

Anti-Locking Braking System

ABS detects when your wheels are about to lock and rapidly pumps the brake for you, which prevents you skidding and enables you to focus on steering the car better as you’re not having to multi-task in an emergency.
Stopping Distances
Below is a table taken from the Highway code of the typical stopping distances. Please remember in the rain overall stopping distance will double and in the ice and snow it can increase up to ten times.

2 second rule: On 40mph+ roads pick a landmark like a road sign. Once the car in front passes that sign count to 2 seconds slowly. If you get there before you finish counting then that’s an indication you’re following too close.

Common reasons for Failing the Emergency Stop

Slow reaction

When the examiner raises his/her right hand and says “STOP” you are expected to react as quickly as possible. If you’re taking 1-2 seconds more than you should to respond and press the break pedal this could result in stopping too late and ultimately you could fail your test in real life killing a poor child.

Not stopping quickly enough

You MUST press the brake firm and hard but not stamp on the pedal. As you press the brake pedal, gradually increase the pressure. As an indication you have braked firmly enough the seat belt should lock.

Vehicle skids out of control

When the pedal has been stamped on, the car can skid, if you feel the car skidding you will need to apply cadence braking. If you have ABS braking (Anti-Locking Braking system) then this will assist you. If the back end of you car slides out you will need to turn into the skid. This should not happen on your driving test really as the examiner will only ask you to do this on a straight road in good weather conditions.

Taking your hand off the steering wheel

Taking your hand or hands off the steering wheel before you have completely stopped. You shouldn’t try to apply the handbrake whilst the car is in motion and changing gear is unnecessary as you are stopping. Taking your hands off the wheel whilst the car is moving at high speeds will almost certainly result in a fail and in real life could be the difference between you staying on the road or not hitting the person in the road.

Handbrake whilst still moving

Using the Parking brake before the car has stopped. The parking brake (handbrake) locks the two back wheels. if you pull this up whilst moving the car may go into a skid. Only use the handbrake once stopped.

Poor observations

Lack of observations or no observations before moving off. It’s vital you look all around after an emergency stop. It’s known as a 360 degree observation or a 6 point check. If there is anyone around you or about to pass you, then make sure you’re not effecting them as you move off. If you haven’t seen them and move off this will result in a fail if that hazard is near enough to you.


Signalling if it benefits another road user. There maybe a car 150 metres away and you feel you can drive off will slowing them down. Make sure you put a signal on incase they decide to build up speed. By putting a signal on you are letting that road user know your intentions.

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