Stopping, parking and reversing

For safety reasons, slow down and stop your car in a controlled way. This shows good driving ability and it reduces wear and tear on your car, saves fuel, cuts your carbon footprint and keeps you and other road users safe.

The distance your vehicle takes to stop depends mainly on how fast you’re going and the road and weather conditions.

  • The faster you’re going, the longer it takes to stop.
  • It takes longer to stop in wet or icy conditions.

The stopping distance is made up of 2 parts

  • thinking distance – the distance you travel from when you decide you need to brake to when you actually push the brake pedal
  • braking distance – the distance you travel from when you start pushing the pedal until your car stops completely.

Check the typical stopping distances in The Highway Code (GOV.UK).

Anticipating the need to slow down and brake will help you brake smoothly and safely: watch out for hazards around you that you may need to brake for, such as pedestrians, cars pulling out of junctions, cyclists and other road users.

An anti-lock braking system (ABS) can help you brake safely and effectively by helping to prevent skidding but it will not shorten your stopping distance.


Whenever you park, make sure the place you choose is

  • safe – could your vehicle cause an accident by being too close to a junction?
  • convenient – you’re more likely to cause damage, either to your car or someone else’s, if it’s in an awkward spot
  • legal – check The Highway Code (GOV.UK) for more information on parking rules.

When you’ve parked the car, you must turn off

  • the headlights
  • the fog lights (if fitted)
  • the engine.

If you’re parking at night on a road where the speed limit is more than 30 mph, you must leave the parking lights on.

Reverse parking

Reversing into a parking space makes your car more manoeuvrable but make sure you check all around you while you’re reversing.

It’s often a good idea to reverse into a space in a car park: this will give you a better view when you drive away, especially if you have passengers in the back of the car.

Sometimes it’s possible to ‘pull through’ one car parking space into a space on the next row so you’re facing forwards ready for when you drive away. If you do this, make sure another driver is not planning to turn into that space.

Parking on a hill

When you’re parking on a hill, use the wheels and the engine to make sure the car cannot roll away if the parking brake fails.

  • If you are facing downhill, turn the wheels slightly towards the kerb: if the car rolls, it will steer into the kerb and stop.
  • If you are facing uphill, turn the wheels slightly away from the kerb.
  • Leave the car in gear: if the parking brake fails, the engine should stop the wheels turning. (This only applies to a car with manual gears.)
  • If you drive an automatic vehicle, always leave in park when stationery.

Getting out of the car

You and your passengers should check before opening the car doors. Watch out for other road users, particularly cyclists and motorcyclists, when opening a door on to the road, and for pedestrians when opening a door on to the pavement.

It is a good idea to use the Dutch method of opening your door. The Dutch reach is a safety technique for motorists that’s been in use in the Netherlands since at least the 1970s. Its aim is to stop cyclists (and pedestrians) from being hit by car doors as they pass parked cars.

To do the Dutch reach, just open your car door from the inside with the hand that’s furthest from the door handle. You can do it whether you’re a driver or a passenger in a car. In the UK, that means the driver should open the door with their left hand and the front passenger should open the door with their right hand.

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