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, although the speed limit could be anything.
  • 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

1 in 3 tests does 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 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.

How do I do an emergency stop?

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

(Highway Code)
  • 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 two hands on the steering wheel
  • Once you’ve come to a complete stop, ensure you do not allow the car to roll (maybe 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 telltale 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.


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.

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.

Anti Lock Braking Systems (ABS)

ABS has been compulsory on new cars since 2004. 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 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 is only a driver aid, it does not remove the need for good driving practices such as anticipating events and assessing the road conditions.

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