Stopping, parking and reversing

Slowing down and stopping your car in a controlled way is vital for good driving: it reduces wear and tear on your car, saves fuel and keeps you and other road users safe.

The distance your vehicle will take 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 two parts

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

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

Anticipating the need to brake will help you brake smoothly and safely: watch out for things around you that you might need to brake for, such as pedestrian crossings or cars pulling out of junctions.

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) can help you brake safely and effectively by helping to prevent skidding but they will not shorten your stopping distance.


Whenever you park, make sure the place you choose is

  • safe – could it 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 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, be careful to make sure another driver is not planning to turn into that space from the next row.

Parking on a hill

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

  • Turn the wheels slightly towards the kerb: if the car rolls, it will steer into the kerb and stop.
  • 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.)

Getting out of the car

Make sure that you and your passengers 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.

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