Why the (emergency) controlled stop is often failed after you stop

Driving Test report Section 2 Emergency Stop
On this page about the (emergency) controlled stop, which is section 2 on the driving test report form, you will first discover what it is. You will also learn how to do an emergency stop in the UK driving test. You can be sure that this is what the examiner wants to see as it is based on information from a number of official sources:

We'll start by finding out what is expected of you in general terms.

Current and historical guidance from the driving test report explanation sheet

This was formerly known as the emergency stop. You will need to bring the car to a halt briskly without skidding.

You may be asked to show that you can stop your vehicle in good time and under full control as if in an emergency situation. Remember when driving in wet or icy weather conditions it will take you longer to stop safely.

What happens during the test

There's a fairly good chance that you won't do an emergency stop on your test as they only do it on 1 in 3 tests. However if you do have to do it this is what happens.

Examiner's instruction to you

At some point along the test route the examiner will say:

"Pull up on the left please" (they either specify a location, or use normal stop wordings).

Once you have pulled up, applied the parking brake, selected neutral and cancelled the indicator the examiner will then give the following briefing:

"I’m going to ask you to do an emergency stop. When I give this signal, ‘Stop’ [their open right hand is simultaneously raised to their face level]  - I’d like you to stop as quickly and as safely as possible. Before giving the signal I’ll look around to make sure it’s safe, but please wait for my signal. Do you understand the instructions?"

Hopefully you'll have understood and you'll say "Yes"
They will then say:

"Drive on when you're ready please"

Once you've got up to around 25 mph the examiner will look over their right shoulder and out of the rear screen, to check that it is safe to carry out the exercise. They will then turn to sit correctly.

If it isn't safe the examiner will expect you to continue to drive for a short while until a safe opportunity arises. Should no safe opportunity present itself the examiner will tell you that they won't be asking you to carry out the exercise.

Assuming, it is safe, as they turn back to sit correctly, briefly check your main mirror, then look ahead again because without a pause they will then say:

"Stop" (they also give the raised hand signal).

  • You should now brake very firmly
  • Once you are braking, if you are in a manual car, push the clutch all the way down
  • When you stop keep your feet on the brake (and clutch in a manual)
    • Now apply the parking brake
    • Put the car in neutral
    • Take your feet off of the pedals

Once you have stopped and are ready to drive on they will say:

"Thank you. I won’t ask you to do that again. Drive on when you’re ready please"

This is where a lot of people fail as they are sometimes flustered by the sudden stop and forget to move off safely.

There are now three possible scenarios:

  1. The road is clear
    • You should now check all round to see if it is clear to move off
    • If it is, then drive on, checking your blindspot as you move
  2. The road isn't clear (a)
    • If it isn't clear see if the other road user is giving way to you
    • If so check around again
    • give a right signal
    • Then drive on, remembering your blindspot check as you move off
  3. The road isn't clear (b)
    • If the other road user isn't giving way, wait until they do
    • Then move off safely as described above

Listen to an example:

What they look for

  • Reaction to signal
  • Stop firmly
  • Clutch depressed after brake applied
  • Handbrake used before stationary
  • Two hands on the wheel to maintain direction

How the examiner assesses and marks the emergency stop

Expected outcome / competence

You need to show the ability to:

Display a high level of skill in bringing the vehicle to a stop, safely, promptly and under full control avoiding locking the wheels.

Remember, in wet weather it can take twice as long to stop safely.

Common faults:

Assessment criteria (example)

Driving fault

Delayed reaction, resulting in increased stopping distance, but demonstrating effective skills in retaining control.

Serious fault

Excessively delayed reaction, resulting in total stopping distance being close to that of normal braking

Dangerous fault

Failing to brake and loss of control that resulted in actual danger to the examiner, candidate, the general public or property.

Highway Code rules about the emergency stop

In an emergency. Brake immediately. Try to avoid braking so harshly that you lock your wheels. Locked wheels can lead to loss of control.

Skids. Skidding is usually caused by the driver braking, accelerating or steering too harshly or driving too fast for the road conditions. If skidding occurs, remove the cause by releasing the brake pedal fully or easing off the accelerator. Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear of the vehicle skids to the right, steer immediately to the right to recover.

Rear of the car skids to the right. Driver steers to the right
Rule 119: Rear of the car skids to the right. Driver steers to the right

ABS. If your vehicle is fitted with anti-lock brakes, you should follow the advice given in the vehicle handbook. However, in the case of an emergency, apply the footbrake firmly; do not release the pressure until the vehicle has slowed to the desired speed. The ABS should ensure that steering control will be retained, but do not assume that a vehicle with ABS will stop in a shorter distance.

Examiner's guidance from the DVSA about the emergency stop

An emergency stop should be carried out on one third of tests chosen at random. It can normally be carried out at any time during the test; but the emergency stop exercise MUST be carried out safely where road and traffic conditions are suitable. If an emergency has already arisen naturally during the test this special exercise is not required; in such cases the candidate should be told and a note made on the DL25.

With the vehicle at rest the examiner should explain to the candidate that they will shortly be tested in stopping the vehicle in an emergency, as quickly and safely as possible.

The warning to stop the vehicle will be the audible signal “Stop!” together with a simultaneous visual signal given by the examiner raising the right hand to face level, or in the case of a left hand drive vehicle, raising the left hand. This should be demonstrated.

The examiner should explain to the candidate that they will be looking over their shoulder to make sure it is safe to carry out the exercise, and that they should not pre-empt the signal by suddenly stopping when the examiner looks round, but should wait for the proper signal to be given. To minimise the risk of premature braking, examiners are advised to ask the candidate if they understand the ES instructions.

The emergency stop must not be given on a busy road or where danger to following or other traffic may arise.

It is essential that examiners take direct rear observation to ensure that it is perfectly safe to carry out the exercise. They must not rely on the mirrors.

If the exercise cannot be given within a reasonable time the candidate should be asked to pull up, care being taken to choose the right moment as the candidate will have been expecting the emergency stop signal and may react accordingly. They should then be advised that the exercise will be given later and that they will be warned again beforehand. Alternatively, if conditions ahead are expected to be favourable, they should be reminded that the exercise will be given shortly, and the instructions repeated if necessary.

If a candidate asks whether they should give an arm signal, they should be told that the command to stop will be given only when it appears that no danger will arise as a result of a sudden stop, but that they should assume that an extreme emergency has arisen and demonstrate the action they would take in such a case.

The emergency stop exercise must not be used to avoid a dangerous situation.
ABS - Anti-lock braking system.

Note: Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) are being fitted to an increasing number of vehicles. Examiners should not enquire if a vehicle presented for a test is fitted with ABS.

Most ABS systems require the clutch and footbrake to be depressed harshly at the same time to brake in an emergency situation; therefore a fault should not be recorded purely for using this technique with a vehicle fitted with ABS on the emergency stop exercise. On the emergency stop exercise, under severe braking, tyre or other noise may be heard, this does not necessarily mean the wheels have locked and are skidding. Examiners should bear these points in mind when assessing the candidate’s control during this exercise. Further advice regarding ABS is given in the DVSA publication ‘Driving: the essential skills’.