Emergency Stop

To know and understand when and how to perform an emergency stop if required
To know how to carry out an emergency stop if necessary
  • To know how to brake in an emergency
  • To understand how to reduce the likelihood of needing to perform an emergency stop
  • To understand how Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) may assist you in an emergency stop
  • To know how to control a skid

You must always plan and anticipate when driving your car to reduce the likelihood of needing to perform an emergency stop.

There may be occasions where you will need to perform an emergency stop, such as if a child runs out.

So it is essential that you can do this if required.

How To Do An Emergency Stop:

Emergency stop for child on bike

A quick reaction is crucial in an emergency. The sooner you start braking the sooner you will stop. Stopping in an emergency increases the risk of skidding. The harder you brake the more likely the wheels are to lock up and skid.

In general.

  • Keep both hands on the wheel
  • Squeeze the foot brake hard but don’t stamp or lock the wheels up
  • Save the clutch till last
  • Make sure you stop as quickly and safely as possible

You should not while braking.

  • Signal, your brake lights should be doing that for you
  • Put the handbrake on as you could lock up your rear wheels

When you come to move on.

  • Make sure you have a good look all around you
  • This means checking both blind spots
Defensive Driving:

drive safely

Driving defensively can sometimes reduce the need to make an emergency stop. To try and avoid an emergency from occurring:

  • Look well ahead at all times
  • Watch out for children playing or children near to the road
  • Take extra care at the beginning and end of the school day
  • Look out for pedestrians on or near the road
  • Always drive at an appropriate speed
  • Be prepared at all times for the unexpected

It’s useful to remember that tyres with lots of tread will help your car to stop in a shorter distance. Regular checks of your tyres will help keep you and others safe.

Anti-lock Braking Systems (ABS):

ABS light on dashboard

Your car may be fitted with ABS brakes, this will assist your car to not skid if the brakes are applied harshly. ABS will stop your cars wheels from locking, which will mean you are able to continue to steer.

ABS does not always reduce your stopping distance.

If your car does have ABS then you should still drive carefully at all times. ABS does not always prevent your car from skidding especially if the road is wet or has a loose road surface.

Always check your vehicle handbook to see if your car has ABS. there will normally be an amber warning light on the dashboard as well.

Weather/Road Conditions:

Car tyre braking on wet road

If the road is wet, or has a loose road surface then your car may be more likely to skid if the brakes are suddenly applied. Always pay attention to the road surface you are driving on in case you need to perform an emergency stop.

On a slippery surface such as an icy road, your car’s stopping distance can be up to ten times further than a dry road.


Skid marks on the road

Skidding is best avoided. It is normally caused by the driver driving too fast for the road and conditions. Overall you have a responsibility to be able to stop your car in the distance that you can see is clear. This means you have to take account of the road and the conditions.

There are a number of different technologies in use to help you prevent skidding. ABS which we touched on above. Traction control which is often combined with ABS to give ESC which is electronic stability control. It is your responsibility to know how if your car has them and how to use them. Read your vehicle handbook.

If your car does not have these aids. When you brake harshly your car may begin to skid. The heavier the brakes are applied the more weight goes to the front of the car and the more difficult your car will be to control.

If your car begins to skid.

  • Release the brake pedal fully
  • To bring your wheels into line again turn into the skid e.g. if the rear of your car is going right, steer to the right. Be careful not to overcorrect and steer to far
  • If the front wheels are also sliding release the accelerator and don’t try to steer until the wheels regain some grip
When driving always be prepared for the unexpected and drive at an appropriate speed for the road and conditions.

Remember in an emergency stop to keep both hands on the steering wheel and react quickly.

If your car begins to skid release the brake pedal and turn into the skid to bring your car wheels back into line.

You should be able to:

  • Know how to stop in an emergency
  • Reduce the risks of having to do an emergency stop
  • Understand what ABS can do for you
  • Know how to deal with skids
Further Reading:

What’s in the driving syllabus?

Click on a topic below to get started.
Please note this syllabus should be used with a professional driving instructor.


Cockpit Drill

Safety Checks

Controls and Instruments
Moving Away and Stopping
Safe Position
Mirrors Vision and Use
Anticipation and Planning
Use of Speed
Other Traffic
Dual Carriageway
Motorway Driving
Country Roads
Pedestrian Crossings
Turning the Vehicle Around
Emergency Stop
Independent Drive
Fuel-Efficient Driving
Passengers and Loads