Flux Emergency stop

How to do the emergency stop safely

The question of how to do the emergency stop safely is one of the biggest concerns for learner drivers.

While you can practice your parallel parking and reversing around corners to your heart’s content, it’s not too easy to replicate the circumstances in which you will need to make an emergency stop safely.

Hopefully, you will have learned about stopping distances and the importance of maintaining a good distance between you and the car in front that you won’t need to make an emergency stop too often. But things do happen that are beyond our control and as a regular driver, it is inevitable that on occasion you will have to pull up sharply.

You may, or may not, be asked to make an emergency stop on your driving test as it is no longer one of the compulsory exercises.

If you are asked to stop in an emergency on your driving test the examiner will forewarn you, raise his or her hand and then shout stop or tap the dashboard in front of them.

This exercise demands your concentration and swift reactions. There are four stages of completing the emergency stop safely:

1 On the instructor’s signal apply the foot brake quickly and firmly. You won’t have time to check your rearview or side mirrors. Do not press the clutch at this stage as the car may become difficult to control.

2 The car’s sudden change in momentum will push your body weight forward. Keep both hands firmly on the steering wheel, which will help you maintain direction or correct a skid.

3 Just before the car comes to a stop press the clutch fully to disengage the engine. Once the car is at halt apply the handbrake and select neutral. If the car stalls, don’t panic. If it is safe to do so, restart the engine.

4 When the emergency scenario has cleared make your regular all-around road observations — mirrors, signal and manoeuvre — paying particular attention to any blind spots, to pull away again.

How long will it take to stop the car in an emergency?

There are many factors that determine the emergency stopping distance of a car. These include the weight of the vehicle, the speed it is going, and the condition of the brakes, tyres and suspension.

It also depends on the driver’s reactions and the road surface itself. The Highway Code contains a guide to stopping distances assuming a typical dry road surface and average vehicle characteristics. The stopping distance comprises two elements, thinking distance plus braking distance.

Speed Thinking & braking Stopping distance
20mph 6m+6m 12m (40 feet)
30mph 9m+14m 23m (75 feet)
40mph 12m+ 24m 36m (118 feet)
50mph 15m+38m 53m (174 feet)
60mph 18m+55m 73m (240 feet)
70mph 21m+75m 96m (315 feet)


What happens if I skid when making an emergency stop?

When stopping in an emergency there is an increased risk of skidding, particularly if the road is heavy with leaves, wet, icy or otherwise unstable.

In good conditions on a dry surface, you should allow a two second gap between you and the vehicle in front. In the wet, this should be doubled to four seconds and you may need to leave up to 10 times more of a gap in snowy and icy conditions.

While most cars on the road now feature anti-lock braking systems which help prevent skidding, if you brake too hard you can still go into one. If you do, to correct it you need to steer into it, or into the direction you want the car to go.

If you are especially concerned about losing control there are a number of skid training courses available up and down the country.

Your driving instructor will give you more advice about handling a skid. There are more practical tips for learner drivers and newly qualified drivers on the Learner Drive Hub of the Adrian Flux website.