Learning to Drive – Perfecting Smooth Starts and Stops

October 08, 2013 at 5:16 PM

Taking off from a stopped position too quickly can be very dangerous for a new driver and is quite common, especially when they are not accustomed to driving and are not aware yet of how to control the vehicle. If a new driver starts off too quickly they have the possibility of hitting the car in front of them because most drivers start off slowly, for example from a light in traffic.

Stopping too quickly can also be dangerous because cars around the driver making the stop are not expecting them to stop so abruptly. Sudden stops can result in your car being struck from behind by another vehicle. Part of learning to drive a vehicle is learning the spatial relationship between your own vehicle and other vehicles around you. You need to be able to judge the stopping distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you at a variety of speeds and in different situations/weather.

Practice Makes Perfect!


It takes a lot of practice to be able to start off smoothly. When you first get into the car, check to see if the parking brake is on and that the car is in park, then place your foot on the brake pedal then start the car. Disengage the parking brake if it has been set while keeping your foot on the brake. Look where you want to steer the car, place the car into gear and let your foot slowly off of the brake. You won’t need to put your foot on the accelerator just yet; the car should start to move on its own once it is in drive (assuming you are driving an automatic).

Your right foot should be positioned on the floor so that it can move between the accelerator and the brake pedal easily – ideally by just swivelling on your heel. As the car starts to move, you can rest your foot on the accelerator and lightly press down on the gas slowly. Once you reach the speed you want to travel at, you can ease off the accelerator a little or keep your foot on the gas, giving it even pressure.

It is best to practice in an open space such as an empty car park when you first start driving. This lets you get used to the amount of pressure that you need to apply to the accelerator to change speeds smoothly. Once you reach a reasonable speed, you can remove your foot from the accelerator and leave it hovering over the brake pedal.

You should also practice driving in reverse in the same way that you have practiced driving in a forward direction. You need to be able to back up slowly and carefully in many different situations and you should become accustomed to this manoeuvre so that it feels natural when you need to back up. It’s a key part of the driving test as well.

Practicing and perfecting your stops

Now that you are driving at a reasonable speed, it is time to practice stopping. You will use the same foot for both the accelerator and the brake; never use separate feet for each because that can be very dangerous. Remove your foot from the accelerator and, swiveling on your heel, place your foot slowly onto the brake pedal. 

Start applying slow, even pressure to the brake. You will feel the car starting to slow down as you apply pressure to the brake pedal. It’s easy when you are starting out to brake too hard and stop too abruptly.  Once the car comes to a full stop, place the car in park, apply the handbrake, and turn the car off. If you are in traffic, just sit in place until you are ready to proceed by keeping your foot on the brake. Don’t put the car in park when you are in traffic or you may forget that you have done so and then you will simply rev up your car when you place your foot on the gas which can be bad for the engine.

As you learn to drive you will find yourself in different situations with more and more traffic. This can be a little bit nerve wracking, but you need to remember to remain calm and take your time with your driving. Your eyes should constantly check your rear view mirrors, your side mirrors and the road in front of you as you drive. You also need to keep an eye on the speedo to ensure that you are observing the correct speed limit.

You should practice often to ensure that you feel comfortable starting and stopping carefully and smoothly, as you learn to drive. There will be times when you need to brake suddenly to avoid an accident and a defensive driving course covers this.

Here’s to your happy and safe motoring!

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Category: Learner Driver Tips