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E is for...

E is for… Emergency stop!

The emergency stop, also known as the controlled stop, is often practised during driving lessons. This involves simulating an emergency situation and getting the student to stop as quickly and as safely as possible. It could be that a pedestrian has suddenly walked out on you, or a car has pulled out on you.

How is it performed on a test?

- Your examiner will pull you over at the side of the road and explain what they are going to do. They won’t just suddenly shout STOP whilst you’re driving along and expect you to stop!

- They will choose a safe, quiet road for you to do this on

- They will explain that they would like you to do an emergency stop, and that the signal they give will be by raising their right hand and saying ‘STOP’

- They will ask you to drive on when you’re ready. The examiner will look around, and then give you the STOP signal

- You will be expected to react quickly and safely

- Once you’ve stopped the examiner will ask you to drive on again, and you will not be asked to do the emergency stop again

'STOP' signal given by instructors & examiners

1 in 3 tests do the emergency stop – so it’s not a definite that you’ll get the emergency stop on your test. However, it is good to practise this with your instructor so that you are prepared – and in case it happens for real one day!

The official DVSA examiners guidelines state the following;

An emergency stop should be carried out on one third of tests chosen at random. It can normally be carried out at any time during the test; but the emergency stop exercise MUST be carried out safely where road and traffic conditions are suitable. If an emergency has already arisen naturally during the test this special exercise is not required. The examiner should explain to the candidate that they will shortly be tested in stopping the vehicle in an emergency, as quickly and safely as possible. The warning to stop the vehicle will be the audible signal “Stop!” together with a simultaneous visual signal given by the examiner raising the right hand to face level. This should be demonstrated. The examiner should explain to the candidate that they will be looking over their shoulder to make sure it is safe to carry out the exercise, and that they should not pre-empt the signal by suddenly stopping when the examiner looks round, but should wait for the proper signal to be given. To minimise the risk of premature braking, examiners are advised to ask the candidate if they understand the instructions. The emergency stop must not be given on a busy road or where danger to following or other traffic may arise. It is essential that examiners take direct rear observation to ensure that it is perfectly safe to carry out the exercise. They must not rely on the mirrors. If the exercise cannot be given within a reasonable time the candidate should be asked to pull up. They should then be advised that the exercise will be given later and that they will be warned again beforehand.

How do I do an emergency stop?

Rule 118 of the Highway Code says;

In an emergency, brake immediately. Try to avoid braking so harshly that you lock your wheels. Locked wheels can lead to loss of control.

- Firstly, it’s important to note that you do not need to check your mirrors in an emergency stop. Looking in your mirror will waste valuable time when you should be braking

- When you are given the STOP signal (or when the poor child runs out in front of you), you must react quickly and brake firmly, keeping 2 hands on the steering wheel

- Once you’ve come to a complete stop, apply your handbrake, and select neutral

- If you are on your driving test, the examiner will ask you to drive on when you’re ready

- Remember to move off safely – including checking all around you – blind spots and mirrors etc.

Driving the Essential Skills says the following;

- Always keep both hands on the steering wheel. You need as much control as possible

- Avoid braking so hard that you lock any of the wheels. A skid may cause a serious loss of control

- Don’t press down on the clutch pedal until just before you stop. This helps with your braking and stability

- Don’t use the parking brake while the vehicle is moving. Most parking brakes work on the back wheels only. Extra braking on the back wheels can cause skidding

- Don’t give a signal – you need both hands to control your steering (and your brake lights will come on at the rear to signal to people behind that you are braking anyway)

- Don’t make a special point of looking in the mirror – if you’ve been using your mirrors regularly you should know what’s behind you

- Stop as quickly and as safely as possible, keeping your vehicle under full control

- Look all around again before moving off

You can try and avoid the risk of needing to brake in an emergency. If you are planning well ahead, you will be aware of what’s going on around you. Look out for children playing, pedestrians, be aware of school times, and tell tale signs such as a ball rolling into the road – children will follow it! Also drive at a speed in which you can stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear.


Rule 119 of the Highway Code says;

Skidding is usually caused by the driver braking, accelerating or steering too harshly or driving too fast for the road conditions. If skidding occurs, remove the cause by releasing the brake pedal fully, or easing off the accelerator. Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear of the vehicle skids to the right, steer immediately to the right to recover.

Skids are caused by the driver asking too much of the car for the amount of grip that the tyres have on the road at that time. A skid happens when you change speed or direction so suddenly that your tyres can’t keep their grip on the road. Slippery surfaces also increase the risk of skidding.

How to deal with a skid

Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

If ABS is fitted, it will activate automatically if you need to press the brakes firmly or stop in an emergency. It prevents the wheels from locking, so that you can continue to steer the vehicle while braking. ABS works by locking and unlocking the wheels many times a second, to allow you to steer. If your wheels were to stay locked, you wouldn’t be able to steer around the obstacle that you are trying to avoid.

ABS is only a driver aid, it doesn’t help the vehicle stop more quickly, nor does it remove the need for good driving practises such as anticipating events and assessing the road conditions.

ABS doesn’t necessarily reduce your stopping distance, but remember to keep your foot firmly on the foot brake. Some older cars need ‘cadence braking’ where you pump the foot brake – however this actually reduces the effectiveness of the ABS system.

ABS lets us steer when braking harshly

Stopping distances

Your overall stopping distance is made up of your thinking distance and braking distance.

Thinking distance - is the time it takes you to think and react to the incident. If you’re feeling tired or unwell, it may take longer for you to process and react.

Braking distance – is the time it takes from when you start applying the brakes, to when you actually stop.

You need to leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can slow down or stop safely if the vehicle in front suddenly brakes.

Stopping distances can depend on a variety of things, including

- How fast you’re going

- Whether you’re travelling uphill or downhill

- The weather

- The conditions of the road

- The type and age of your vehicle

- The condition of your brakes and tyres

- The size and weight of your vehicle

- Your ability as a driver, and your reaction times

Stopping distances

Your theory test will also test your knowledge of stopping distances, so it’s important for you to remember these.

The best way we’ve found to remember your stopping distances is the following –

20 x 2 = 40ft

30 x 2.5 = 75ft

40 x 3 = 120ft

50 x 3.5 = 175ft

60 x 4 = 240ft

70 x 4.5 = 315ft

We hope you found this informative!

Join us next week when we look at Following distances!

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