Emergency Stop

During your driving test, you may be asked to perform an emergency stop and this is something that you can practice with your driving instructor beforehand. An emergency stop is something that a good and careful driver will rarely have to do as practicing acute hazard perception skills means that often an emergency stop is avoided. However, inevitably situations arise on the road which are not expected and an emergency stop may be necessary.

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In this article, we will run through how to safely undertake an emergency stop and what you can expect from this scenario in your driving test.

How to do an Emergency Stop

The most crucial thing to master with the emergency stop is to have a quick reaction, as the sooner you brake, the sooner the car will come to a stop and more likely to avoid the hazard. These are the key things you need to do when stopping in an emergency:

1. Don’t check your mirrors

It might sound contrary to what you have been taught but, as speed is crucial, it is not necessary to check your mirrors when stopping in an emergency (and any good driver will already have an idea of their surroundings).

2. Ensure both hands are on the steering wheel

To give you maximum control you need to have both hands firmly on the steering wheel (so don’t make any attempt to signal). With a firm grip and your seatbelt in place, this should prevent you from being thrown forward when the car comes to an abrupt stop.

3. Squeeze the brakes

Make sure you firmly and fully apply the brake pedal ensuring that you depress the clutch just before you come to a stop. Keep both hands on the wheel at all times.

4. Apply handbrake

Only apply your handbrake after the car has come to a complete stop.

5. Continue safely

Once the obstruction has been removed, and the hazard no longer there it is essential that you move off safely. To do this use POM (prepare, observe, manoeuvre) to check that it is safe to continue driving. You need to check both blind spots before moving as the position of your vehicle may be in the middle of the road, and there are likely to be cars passing on either side as they move away from the obstruction. There may be further obstructions or people around who have been affected by the need for the emergency stop so make sure you thoroughly check around before moving off.

What is ABS?

ABS stands for anti-lock braking system and, as the name suggests, is a mechanism in place to stop the brakes from locking when an emergency stop is required. With ABS in place, this helps to prevent the car from skidding and helps to give a driver more control over the vehicle when it needs to stop quickly. Having an ABS system also means that it is easier to steer the car, if you need to, when you are braking harshly.

ABS works by releasing and reapplying the brakes hundreds of times per second so that they don’t lock and cause the car to skid. For this reason, when you apply the brakes firmly you might be able to feel a pulsing under your foot which is the ABS system working – make sure you keep your foot firmly applied on the brakes throughout.

If your car is of an older generation then it might not have ABS fitted (almost all new cars will have this system in place). Without ABS fitted your car may skid when you suddenly and firmly apply the brakes. If your car does skid in this situation you need to manually come off the brake pedal and then press it again very quickly. Speed is of the essence in this action so that you come to a stop in the shortest distance possible.

Driving Test Emergency Stop

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One in three driving tests will include the emergency stop so it is important to make sure you know what to expect should you be asked to do this exercise in your test.

Don’t worry, the emergency stop won’t be a surprise – the examiner will ask you to pull over before informing you that they want you to do an emergency stop and will explain the process to you. You will then be expected to drive as normal until the examiner signals for you to stop – this will either be by raising their hand or shouting STOP.

When examining you on your emergency stop the examiner will be looking out for the following:

  1. That you can stop the car quickly and safely
  2. Both hands are on the wheel
  3. Braking is done smoothly in one action
  4. Avoidance of locking the wheels and skidding
  5. Making sure the clutch is only applied just before the car stops
  6. Securing the car when it has stopped by securing the handbrake and putting the gear in neutral
  7. That you can move off safely ensuring you have checked for all hazards around you thoroughly.


The emergency stop is often feared by learner drivers as it can feel like a big undertaking in the driving test. However, if you get to grips with how to safely undertake an emergency stop and make sure you get lots of practice in with your driving instructor, you can make sure you are well prepared if you happen to be in the 33% that get asked to do this on their test.

Being able to stop quickly and safely in an emergency is an essential skill for any driver so getting this practice right, to begin with, will help to keep you and others safe on the road.