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Stopping at the side of the road precisely | Learning to drive: Basic skills

Stopping at the side of the road can be tricky for a new driver, as there are many things that could go wrong. We must find a safe place, check for danger tell others what we intend to do, and steer into a position near to the kerb before finally stopping the car.

In this article, we will tell you how to complete these tasks smoothly so that you can stop safely whenever you need to on your driving test, or when driving on your own afterwards.

Why Stopping Safely is Important

Stopping at the side of the road safely is an important skill, as we will often need to do this when driving our car. If we choose a poor place to park and we could become a hazard that could create danger. Also if we control our car poorly and hit the kerb, we could damage your wheel or tyre. Therefore we must ensure that we use good judgement and skill when stopping at the side of the road. In addition, on the driving test, we will be asked to stop at least three times – so it is a skill worth practising.

Getting a reference point

Before we start driving we should take this opportunity to get a reference point for our position next to the kerb. We are positioned about 15 cm away from the kerb, and we can see from the driver’s position that the kerb meets the bottom of the windscreen just to the right of the wiper arm base. Like any other reference point this will vary in other cars and for other driving positions, so take the time to find yours if you need to. Next time we want to stop all we have to do to regain the parked position is gently steer to keep the kerb at this reference points at the bottom of the windscreen.

Where to stop

We should always stop in a safe convenient and legal position. So we must take care when choosing where to stop.

We Can’t Stop;

  • in front of the driveway
  • on a bus stop
  • and opposite parked cars, If it will block the road

The Highway Code also tells us many other places we can’t stop including;

  • within 10 metres of a junction
  • on double yellow lines
  • and on zig-zag lines near pedestrian crossings

So if it’s been a while since you passed your theory test then have another look to ensure your knowledge is up to date.

Use the MSM Routine (Mirror Signal Manoeuvre)
So that we know it is definitely safe for us to stop we must follow the MSM or mirror signal manoeuvre routine as used with many other decisions when driving. Let’s have a quick look at how it will help us when stopping.

Mirrors – to check for danger

We start by checking our mirrors. In this instance, we are pulling over to the left side of the road so we should check our centre mirror and left mirror for any danger. We are looking for any other vehicles especially cyclist and motorcyclist who could squeeze pass the left hand side of our car. Or another vehicle very close behind us. If we think they might cause danger by stopping we can delay or abort our intention to stop our car.

Signal – to inform others

Once we know it is safe to stop we use our left indicator to make it clear to those around us that we will be moving to the left and stopping our car. We must be careful not to mislead other drivers, so we can only indicate when there are no other junctions before our stopping position.

Manoeuvre – stop the car

Now that we are ready to stop the car we start breaking gently to reduce our speed. Once the car is down to a lower speed we steer gently towards the kerb using the reference point we found earlier. We can stop the car in whatever our current gear is, but we will need to push the clutch down completely to avoid stalling the engine. Once we are happy with the car’s position near the kerb we gently bring the car to a stop with the brakes. To avoid a jerky stop we lift the brake pedal a little as a car comes to a halt. Our position should be no more than 30 cm from the kerb to keep the car away from passing traffic.

Secure the Car

Once the car has stopped we must make it secure so it doesn’t stall all roll away. Whilst our right foot keeps the brakes applied and our left foot keeps the clutch pedal fully depressed, we apply the handbrake with the gear into a neutral position, turn off the indicator and then finally remove our feet from the pedals. Doing it in this order every time will make sure that the car is always safe and secure.

Stopping in other situations

Let’s take a quick look at how we might need to adjust our technique when stopping in other situations. Stopping in a smaller gap is more difficult, especially if it is just after a parked car. Because we will need to steer very precisely, we slow right down as this will give us more time to steer into the gap before using the remaining room to straighten the car as much as possible. When stopping on a Bend it can be difficult to judge how close we are to the kerb as our normal reference point is set up for straight roads. To reduce the chance of hitting the kerb accidentally we steer to the left more gently than normal, keep rolling slowly we fine-tune our position and then finally stopped the car.

Stopping on an uphill gradient

When stopping on an uphill gradient the car will naturally lose speed more quickly when we push the clutch down. To stop this happening we delay pushing the clutch pedal a little, to keep the car driving slowly forward until we are happy with our position before finally pushing the clutch down and stopping as normal.


So remember to;

  • find your own reference point to use
  • choose a safe and legal space to stop
  • use the MSM routine
  • and secure the car after stopping
Video & Content by Advanced Driving School on YouTube
Photo by Alexandru STAVRICĂ on Unsplash