How to do a Complete Stop on your Driving Test

You have to come to a full and complete stop on your driving test. If you don’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign or red light, it’s an automatic failure.

In a complete stop, there is zero movement. In other words, the car is completely at rest. It’s not going forward. It’s not rolling backward. In a complete stop, the car is still.

Easier said than done!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get impatient. When I’m in a hurry and I’ve got some place I need to be, the last thing I want to do is break my momentum by stopping. Sometimes I catch myself rolling very slowly through a stop sign.

This kind of thing will cause you to fail your driving test. You have to completely stop. Rolling slowly through a stop sign is just as bad as running it on purpose at driving speed. Both of them are automatic failures on the driving test.

How do I know that I stopped completely?

It’s simple. In a complete stop, the scenery stops moving.

Now, obviously the scenery is not really “moving”. The houses and trees you see are fixed objects. But your car is moving, and the contrast between the movement of your car and the fixed objects that you are passing by creates your perception of motion. And the biggest clue that you are in motion is when it appears that fixed objects that don’t move look like they are moving. They look like they’re sliding across your windows and mirrors. Or, in dark conditions, you’ll notice the movement of lights and the dancing of shadows.

When all of this movement and motion and passing by stops, then you know that you have stopped completely. You’ll figure it out with practice, just by paying attention to when the scenery stops moving. Pay attention to your surroundings, and notice when there is no motion.

How long do I have to stop for?

There’s no set rule, its up to the examiner’s discretion. It should be brief. You want to stop long enough that you can look both ways before you go. And, if you’re turning, make sure your turn signal is on.

But if you stop too long, the examiner might think you are “hesitating” and you’ll lose a couple of points for that. If there’s someone behind you, they’ll get impatient if you wait too long. They might use their horn to let you know how they feel about it.

Just a second or two is usually long enough. Stop long enough to look both ways, make sure it is safe to go. Be sure that you wait until it’s your turn and you have the right-of-way.

Don’t try to fake it by hard tapping the brakes

Sometimes you might feel the car rock a little bit when you stop. That’s fine. You might or might not notice it. It’s not a big deal, it’s natural.

Some people deliberately hard tap the brakes to make the car rock when they are stopping. This isn’t necessary. Feeling the car rock is not as important as the complete stoppage of motion. Pay attention to the scenery.

Some people hard tap the brakes to make it “feel” like they’re stopping, without actually stopping. This is no good, it’s a fake stop! They roll through the stop sign while they jerk the car with the brakes, and they think they stopped. But the scenery kept moving, which means that they didn’t stop. They faked it, and so they failed. Don’t be a faker!

Main points

Here are the main things to remember about complete stops

  • If you don’t stop completely, you will fail
  • A complete stop is when the scenery stops moving
  • You only have to stop long enough to look both ways, just a second or two
  • Don’t fake it by hard tapping the brakes

Check out our driving test prep courses

When I was teaching driving examiners how to give the Washington driving test, I learned the ins and outs of the test. Over time I realized that it could be simplified. If you follow a handful of simple rules and practices, and get lots of driving practice, passing the test is easy.

I used these simple rules and practices to create an online training course, Washington State Driving Test, to help you prepare to pass your driving test. Our premium version has nine video lessons that give you all of the tips and secrets to passing your test.

If you’re not ready for that yet, we also offer a free version. The free version has five lessons that show you the basics. As part of the five lessons, the free version also includes one of our premium lessons so that you can see what it’s like.