Learn to Drive

Driving lesson brief 5. The emergency stop

Before we can move onto busier traffic situations it is very important that you learn how to stop in an emergency - as if a child had, without warning, run out into the road in front of you. A good driver would rarely have to stop in an emergency as he or she would always be on the look out for potentially dangerous situations and act accordingly. Never the less, a situation may arise that could not have been anticipated and consequently your only course of action might be to undertake an emergency stop. Before you go on to developing your skills in locations with more pedestrians and traffic it is vital that you learn this most important skill.

Lesson Objectives
By the end of this lesson you should be able to:

  • Describe the concept of stopping distances, with regard to thinking and braking distance
  • Complete the emergency stop exercise:
    • With full steering and braking control, braking progressively;
    • Using the brake and clutch correctly;
    • Securing the car after stopping;
    • Making full and proper observational checks before moving off;
    • At various speeds;
  • Explain how to correct a skid.

Subject brief
During this lesson you will learn about stopping distances and how
to stop in an emergency.

The emergency stop exercise
The key learning points to remember about this exercise are: .

1. Quick reactions are vital. Quickly, but firmly apply the foot brake, don’t waste time checking the mirrors. Press the brake before the clutch. If you press the clutch first the car may become unstable and difficult to control.

2. Keep both hands on the steering wheel until the car has stopped. When you brake hard the weight of the car is thrown forwards; this means that you need a firm grip on the steering wheel to maintain direction or correct skids.

3. Don’t try to steer when braking harshly otherwise you may put the car into a skid unless your car is fitted with an anti-locking brake system (ABS).

4. If the car skids during an emergency stop you should quickly release and re-apply the foot brake. This will allow the tyres to regain their grip on the road surface.

5. The car can move sideways in a skid. If this happens, concentrate on where you want to go, turning your head, if necessary. Turn the steering wheel the same way as you are looking - towards where you want to go. Remember to release and re-apply the foot brake as you steer!

6. Take extra observations before moving away checking both blind spots.

Speed and stopping distances
The distance it takes to stop a vehicle depends upon the weight, speed, brakes, tyres and suspension of the vehicle. It also depends upon your reaction speed or thinking time and the road surface itself. The Highway Code contains a guide to normal stopping distances assuming a typical dry road surface and average vehicle characteristics. What is less appreciated is the distance you travel per second. Below you can see the distance you would travel in car lengths (i.e. 4 metres) per second at different speeds.

Distance travelled in car lengths per second at:

Highway code practical references
Rules: 118-120 and 126