Breaking down on the side of the road, especially if you’re on your own, can be scary. If your car stops working, you can quickly find yourself in a dangerous situation, and your vehicle can become a hazard to other motorists.
The most important thing to remember is to keep calm, and get yourself to a safe place as soon as you can, so that you can call for help. We’ve created a list of all the things you should do in order to stay safe when your vehicle breaks down below:
1. Get to a Safe Place
The first thing you should do when you break down, or know you’re just about to, is move your vehicle off the road if possible. So if you’re on the motorway, this could mean turning off at the next exit, or getting onto a layby or hard shoulder. And make sure you watch out for any soft verges when you pull in.
Essentially, you need to get as far over to the left as possible, turning all your wheels to the left too. That way, your car should be less of an obstruction for other vehicles coming up behind you.
2. Turn on Your Hazard Lights
When you’ve moved your vehicle off the road, it’s crucial to turn on your hazard lights, even if it’s not dark, and visibility is good. The aim of these lights is to catch the attention of other motorists, so that they can avoid colliding with your vehicle.
If it is dark, or the weather is foggy, you may wish to keep your sidelights on as well as your hazard lights. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure your car is as obvious as possible to other drivers.
3. Get Out of Traffic
While it may not feel like it, it’s generally safer to get out of your car when you break down, as you’ll be further away from the road. Make sure that you exit the vehicle using the doors facing away from the traffic, and try to wait behind a barrier.
If you have any pets in the car with you, it’s encouraged that you leave them in the vehicle, as this is where they will be safest. There is the possibility that animals will run away should they be taken out of the car, which can put you in danger if you try to chase them. There is also a chance that further accidents could happen, when other cars swerve to avoid hitting your pet.
4. Make Yourself Visible
When you’ve exited the car, you should try and make yourself visible if you can. Ideally, you’ll have a high-vis jacket you can wear, but if not, use a torch to draw attention to yourself. The torch on your phone will work if you don’t have a regular one.
At this stage, it’s also a good idea to work out where you are. If you don’t have a map, whether it’s a physical one or on your phone, you can check the mile markers on the side of the motorway. You’ll need to be able to provide this information when you call for assistance.
5. Call Your Breakdown Company
Once you’ve done all you can to make yourself visible and get out of harm’s way, you should call your breakdown company. You may be a member through your insurance, or you could have made a separate policy elsewhere.
If you don’t currently have breakdown cover, you can join while on the side of the road, though it will almost certainly be more expensive. The main two breakdown services are the AA and RAC, though you may find smaller, more local companies work out cheaper. The thing to remember is that you may need picking up from anywhere in the UK, so the service you opt for should have a lot of vans on the road!
It’s also important to note that if you have been unable to get to a safe location by this point, you should call the emergency services as well as a breakdown company. The police can cordon off the area if needed, and ensure that you and your vehicle are safe.