Controlled (Emergency) Stop

An emergency stop is not something you should have to do on a regular basis when driving. 

As the word emergency suggests, this is something that could not be avoided.  In normal driving the good driver should always be reading the road ahead and behind and anticipating the action of all other road users. 

This is a driving technique known as Defensive Driving.  "Defensive Driving is based on effective observation, good anticipation and control.  It's about always questioning the actions of other road users and being prepared for the unexpected, so as not to be taken by surprise." (Driving The Essential Skills DSA Publication.  Page 201)

By doing this, the good driver will be responding early to the changes in the road, traffic and weather conditions and will adjust their driving accordingly.  An example of this could be when driving near the vicinity of a school in the morning/afternoon where there are lots of children and parked cars a driver should reduce their speed and anticipate that children often misjudge speed and distance and are likely to run into the road from between parked cars'. 

By anticipating this potential hazard and acting by reducing the speed of your vehicle you will be less likely to have to do an emergency stop should a child suddenly step into the road. 

However, despite good planning and observation, situations where we need to stop quickly may still occur. 

The most important thing for you to do should this happen is to react as quickly as possible as the sooner you start braking, the sooner you will stop.  You need to consider that our ability to react will be affected by several factors. 

Our general fitness to drive will include the obvious, such as our physical fitness and mobility which allows us to control the vehicle plus our general well being. 

Very simply, don't drive if you're feeling tired or unwell.  Even a cold can make you unsafe to drive as this may affect your concentration.  Avoid beginning a journey if you feel tired and be prepared to rest for a short nap or at the very least, open a window if you have already begun your journey. 

The Manoeuvre

The manoeuvre itself is very similar to the normal stopping procedure with regards to following the progressive braking rule. 

There is no need to check your mirrors before braking.  (An emergency stop is the only time you will not need to check your mirror before braking as this will waste time and you should already know what is happening behind you from previous mirror checks). 

Keep both hands on the steering wheel to maintain control and brake firmly but progressively firmer to stop as quickly as possible.  Remember we are still looking to maintain complete control of the car, this will mean keeping the car running whilst avoiding a skid. 

Just before you stop, put the clutch down to prevent the engine from stalling.  (Just as you would when stopping normally)

Once you have stopped, check your mirror and if safe move away using your usual MSM routine, not forgetting to check both of your blind spots in case there is another child or a road user behind you that cannot be seen in your mirrors.  Consider pulling over after stopping to assess what happened or to settle yourself after an unnerving situation, again using your normal MSM routine, to discuss your progress before we practice again. 

(Please note this video is only for fun and does not represent the correct procedure)


There's no better protection against skids than driving in a way that will avoid them.  Even when stopping in an emergency, we can avoid locking the wheels by following the method and through practice.  It is important to practice the procedure just like we would with any other driving technique. 

However, because we are braking much firmer than we would do in your normal driving we do increase the risk of the vehicle skidding. 

A skid caused by braking is where one or more of the tyres looses' its grip with the road surface.  Generally, when braking, the weight of the car is thrown forward with less weight on the rear, the more likely to lock.  If this happens, release the brake pedal momentarily to allow the wheels to rotate then follow the procedure correctly.  Drivers often instinctively do the opposite, this makes the skid worse. 

You will know that the car is skidding by the sound and the fact the vehicle is not slowing down!

If your vehicle is fitted with an, ABS, anti lock braking system, you will need to note that the procedure is slightly different. 

ABS allows you to continue steering while braking depending on road conditions.  Despite glossy adverts, don't be fooled in to thinking that when a car has ABS the car will stop in a shorter distance. 

If the driver brakes too hard the ABS will automatically cut in.  All you need to do is keep your foot on the brake.  ABS gives you steering control whilst still braking enabling you to steer round the hazard should you need to. 

Should you lose directional control,release the brake momentatrily until the wheels begin to rotate then steer into the skid.  If the back of the car is moving left, steer left, If the back of the car is moving right, steer right.