How To Master The Emergency Stop/Brake

Last Updated: 10/05/2022

The emergency stop is one of the oldest techniques that drivers have been learning.

While some may think that you simply slam your brakes on, it’s actually much more controlled than that.

Learning how to do it properly ahead of your driving test is vital.

A good driver will only have to use an emergency stop on very rare occasions.

Continually looking out for possible hazards and acting accordingly will make the need to stop in an emergency a very unusual action to take.

Nevertheless, the conditions of the road could change in a second and the only course of action open is to make an emergency stop.

As the term suggests, it’s a method of bringing your car to a sudden stop to avoid a hazard or obstacle.

However, if they are not performed properly, they can actually cause even more problems.

The car can skid and the driver loses control.

As a result, the vehicle could collide with other objects, vehicles or even pedestrians.

So, never underestimate what the emergency stop is and how to perform one correctly and safely.

It will almost certainly be a feature of your driving test.

What You Will Learn

To help get you prepared for this manoeuvre we have put together this useful guide.

We’ve constructed it using our routine layout to ensure consistency and we’ve tried to make the guide as jargon-free and easy-to-follow as possible.

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

To undertake an emergency stop, you must apply the foot brake quickly and firmly, followed immediately by the clutch.

It is important that you apply the brake before the clutch as the car may become difficult to control if you apply the clutch before the brake.

When making an emergency stop, you don’t have time to make the usual checks of mirrors, you just need to stop the vehicle as quickly as possible and in the safest manner possible.

When you brake in this way, the weight of the car is thrown forwards.

You will therefore need to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel so that you can control the car and correct skids.

Ideally, a correct emergency stop would prevent the car skidding or certainly minimise it.

Skidding tyres means you have lost control of the vehicle, no matter how brief, so you have to nail this technique to get through your test successfully.

The clutch can be pressed fully to the floor just before the vehicle stops.

As soon as the vehicle is stationary, apply the handbrake and select neutral to secure it.

How To Correct A Skid:

Braking firmly usually increases the risk of skidding, particularly if the surface of the road is very wet or iced over.

Normally, you should allow yourself a gap of approximately two seconds between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead of you, however, if the road is very wet, you should allow about a four second interval.

Where the road is icy, or snowed over, you should aim for a twenty second interval.

Braking too hard may cause the wheels to lock resulting in the car skidding across the surface of the road.

If your vehicle starts to skid, you must release the foot-brake to allow the tyres to grip the surface of the road.

Re-apply the brake soon after to slow the vehicle down again.

This action is called cadence braking and should be done very quickly with a pumping action.

It is important that you wait until you have the vehicle under full control before steering.

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

An emergency stop will usually require a bit of time for you to regain your composure afterwards, so wait a few moments before proceeding if you need to.

When you are ready to continue, prepare the vehicle and ensure that you check all around in all mirrors and left and right blind spots.

Useful Information

The weight, speed, brakes, tyres and suspension of your vehicle will determine the distance it will take to stop.

In addition, the speed of your reaction, and the surface of the road will affect how quickly you bring your vehicle to a stop.

The highway code provides a guide to stopping distances based on a typical dry road, and average vehicle characteristics.

We’ve got some other guides on this website which talk about stopping distances and driving in traffic and other scenarios when emergency stops are more likely, so it’s worth taking the time to read them.

Some vehicles are fitted with ABS (anti-lock braking system) which helps to prevent skidding if you need to apply an emergency brake.

ABS can detect when the wheels are about to lock and will take action accordingly.

When this happens, the system immediately releases the brake which enables the tyres to keep their grip on the road surface. It then re-applies the brake.

The action of the ABS system causes the brake pedal to pulsate as it does this action many times a second.

Maximum pressure must be maintained on the brake pedal while the system does its work.

If you have ABS fitted in your vehicle, you must not drive less safely as it does not guarantee that your vehicle will not skid if the tyres have poor contact with the road surface.

As a side note, this is a solid reason why you should take your car to see a mechanic if you ever notice an ABS light lit on your dashboard.

Final Thoughts

When you undertake the emergency stop manoeuvre on your driving test, the examiner will be looking to see if you effectively bring your vehicle to an instant stop when you are asked to do so and then drive forward when it is clear to continue.

Practising the emergency stop in a safe area will give you the confidence to carry out the procedure successfully.

Further Resources