Emergency Stop

Theory Test Pro in partnership with Dave Harrison Driver Training

It’s vital that you know how to carry out an emergency Stop promptly and under full control. Every driver, however aware and observant they may be can experience an unexpected hazard. Not too long before I wrote this I was travelling through Bromley Cross just to the north of Bolton when a small child ran out from the side of the road straight into the path of my car. I stopped safely and then drove on afterwards but the point is that it happened completely without warning and needed to be dealt with. If it had happened to a driver who was maybe using the ‘phone while driving or otherwise not paying attention then the outcome could have been very different.

Stay Alert

So first of all, stay alert. It sounds obvious but so many people don’t pay enough attention to what is happening around them and so end up needing to do an emergency stop when keeping their eyes open and staying switched on would have made it unnecessary. Look for feet underneath parked vehicles, think about the type of people on the pavement – children are impulsive and often unpredictable – and think about what might be around the corner or just over the hill. Also take into account the time of day, is it for instance throwing out time at school or could that drive through the town centre at night mean the pavements are full of drunks?

If you HAVE to do an emergency stop then think about the reason.

Would you do it for a dog?

Would you do it for a squirrel or a bird?

Probably not is the answer but don’t get the wrong end of the stick. It IS perfectly OK to stop sharply for an animal provided that you know it is safe to stop quickly. That means that you should always check your rear view mirror first because if you DO stop sharply and there is a petrol tanker or a steel truck behind you then you could cause a disaster. Small animals can startle drivers and the reaction of the driver is sometimes involuntary so you need to be aware of the possibilities and up to date with what is behind you at all times just in case you need to make a decision.

If human life or limb is at risk then it doesn’t matter what’s behind you, YOU ARE GOING TO STOP! If for instance a child were to run out in front of you then checking your rear view mirror before you brake is pointless since you are going to stop anyway. That is the big difference between an animal and a child, for an animal you would check your mirror before braking and for a child you would simply STOP.

So for an emergency stop you would………

Not need to check your mirror

Take your foot off the gas and press the brake pedal firmly and progressively

Put the clutch down just before the wheels stop turning to prevent stalling. This would mean that you are making best use of the ‘engine braking’ effect. If you put the clutch down at the same time as the brake then the car is effectively a rolling shell and could need more braking/take longer to stop. This is a different technique to that used on cars with Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS) but will work with any car. If you drive a car try to make yourself aware whether it has ABS and familiarise yourself with what the owner’s manual advises regarding emergency braking. 

Make sure you keep both hands on the wheel until you have completely stopped

Once you have fully stopped, apply the handbrake and select neutral.

The car is now safe.

NOTE; If you do stall during an emergency stop, so what? The point is that you have stopped promptly and under control so stalling the car is not a problem, it just gives you another thing to do before you move off again.

Moving Off

Moving off afterwards you need to be aware that your car is in the middle of the road and so you would need to look over BOTH shoulders and all three mirrors before deciding whether or not to move off. If there is anything coming up behind you, wait to see what it will do before you make your move. If they stop behind you, look around and get on with it but if they go past then wait until they go past before moving off yourself.

The important thing is to make sure that your observation scan is done JUST BEFORE you move and not a few seconds before because things might change in those few seconds.

Look over BOTH shoulders!

On Test

On test the Examiner will tell you what the signal will be for you to carry out the emergency stop (usually a raised hand and using the word STOP). They will also tell you that they may look over their shoulder to check that it is safe behind. This means that when they give the signal to stop you do not need to check your mirror. You SHOULD check your mirrors as normal when you move off from the side of the road and drive along but once the Examiner gives the STOP signal your priority is simply to stop promptly and under control.

When you have completed the stop and made the car safe then the Examiner will ask you to ‘Drive on when it’s safe to do so’. This means that you are being given responsibility back to do all the looking around before moving off.

Once you have moved off the Examiner should then say something like, ‘Thank you, I won’t ask you to do that again’. What they mean is that if the Examiner scratches their nose or moves a hand while you are driving along then it doesn’t mean you should do another emergency stop.


You would not normally signal to move off after an emergency stop. A signal could be confusing for other drivers because they could take it to mean that you are turning or pulling in to the kerb. You are also unlikely to want to move off if there is any traffic approaching from behind so a signal would be pointless anyway.

There are occasions when you might signal when moving away from the side of the road although normally you wouldn’t. Think of moving off after an emergency stop in the same way, usually you wouldn’t but if you felt that your signal might help someone else then make the decision.




Theory Test Pro in partnership with Dave Harrison Driver Training