Manouvers: Emergency Stop

The most important thing whilst driving is to plan and keep aware at all times of potential situations developing. Always ask yourself the question, ´what if?´ What if that person stepped out into the road? What if that car pulls out of the side road in front of me? Could I stop if the traffic lights turned to red now? By planning ahead and being aware of potential situations arising we are able to deal with them before they develop into a serious problem.Sometimes however, no matter how well we plan, a situation develops where our only response available to us is to perform a controlled stop. Such situations would include a child, for example, running out into the road, or a car pulling out in front of us. A controlled stop is performed therefore to save human life and we shouldn´t really stop for anything smaller than the size of a dog.

Emergency Stop

To stop in a controlled way we:


  • Don´t check our centre mirror – if we have been checking our mirrors every few seconds we should already know who is following us and if we have to stop in an emergency situation checking the centre mirror would delay our response to brake.
  • Firmly press the brake pedal.
  • Ensure that both our hands are holding the steering wheel to ensure control of the car.
  • Before the car stops press the clutch pedal down to stop the engine from stalling.
  • Apply the handbrake.
  • Prepare the car for moving off again by using the POM routine:
    • Prepare – 1st gear, biting point, set gas
    • Observation – all around the car
    • Manoeuvre – Take the handbrake off and move away

Certain things can affect how the car stops and need to be taken into account when stopping:

  • The weather – the car will take longer to stop on wet or icy roads.
  • Road surface – the wheels may struggle to grip on loose surfaces e.g. gravel
  • Our speed – the faster we are travelling, the longer it will take us to stop
  • Our distance from the hazard – the closer we are to the hazard the more firmer we will need to brake
  • Our state of health – if we are tired, ill or stressed our reaction times will be slower

The time we put the clutch pedal down and the amount of pressure we apply to the brake can also affect how the car stops. If we put the clutch down too early the car will coast, giving us less control of the car at the time we need it most, taking us longer to stop. However, if we put the clutch down too late then the engine could potentially stall leaving us without power altogether. This could be a problem as sometimes it is as important to move back off again and clear the area e.g. on a country road you may end up on the opposite side of the road after stopping and you may need to get back on the correct side of the road to avoid a collision with a car coming in the opposite direction.

If we apply too much pressure to the brake then we could cause the car to lose control and potentially skid. The brakes are at their most responsive at the point just before the wheels lock. Pressing the brake pedal applies the braking system to the wheels causing the car to slow down and stop. If we press the brake too firmly, particularly if the car is travelling at speed, then the braking system will be applied too quickly and too firmly, causing the wheels to lock and the car to skid. In older cars the way to tackle this problem is to brake in stages, which is known as cadence braking. So you would press the brake firmly and just before the wheels lock you would take your foot off the brake. Then you would press the brake again and release and continue the steps until the car comes to a stop. In modern cars we have a system called ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System), which uses electronics to apply maximum braking force without locking the wheels. This allows you to keep your foot on the brake throughout the whole of the braking procedure. Don´t be fooled, however, into thinking that you cannot skid with ABS though as there are many other causes for skidding such as ice.