Not many of us set off on our journey expecting a vehicle breakdown. It leaves drivers stranded and in a potentially dangerous environment. If you are unlucky enough to have a vehicle breakdown then there are a few things you should know to keep you safe until breakdown assistance arrives.
What to do with your Vehicle if you have a Vehicle Breakdown
Firstly, try to get your vehicle off the road and onto a hard shoulder if possible. If you are on a motorway and have the option to pull off at a junction to a safer stopping point, then this should be chosen. Hard shoulders are dangerous places and should be used for emergencies only. You should always pull in as far to the left as you can, this puts as much distance between your vehicle and the fast moving traffic. Also, turn your wheels to the left so that they are facing the curb; this ensures that if your car moves it will be in the safest direction away from the traffic.
Keep You and Your Vehicle Visible
Putting your hazard lights on will warn traffic coming from both directions that you and experiencing a vehicle breakdown and there is a problem. Similarly, if it is night or the visibility is low, turn on your side lights to ensure traffic can see the width of your vehicle.
If you are on a motorway, do not use a warning triangle as it is too dangerous to walk back onto the road. However, if you are on A and B roads and the it is clear, then it is ok to do so. Place it a good distance back to give other drivers notice of your car.
For you and your passengers, if you have any reflective jackets or clothing, put them on to help keep you seen and keep you warm.
Personal Safety on a Dual Carriageway or Motorway
Personal safety is priority in these situations. If you are on a dual carriageway or motorway when you have a vehicle breakdown, you and any passengers should exit through the left hand side of the vehicle so that you do not walk into the path of the oncoming traffic. Move behind barriers if there are any and ensure children are kept safely under control. If you feel at risk from somebody around you, get back into your car using the left hand door and stay there until the danger has passed. Once it has, get out of the car and back to a safe distance away.
Personal Safety on A and B Roads
If you break down in a less dangerous environment than a motorway, it should be down to your own judgement whether sitting inside the car or moving away from the car is the best choice. If getting out could put you at more risk, then stay inside the vehicle. If other vehicles on the road are moving slowly and you can get out then it would be safer to leave the vehicle when the possibility arises.
Keep an Emergency Bag
It is also recommended if you are due to travel during adverse weather to carry an emergency bag or winter driving bag in the boot. This bag will contain essentials, should you break down or become stranded and the weather is bad. This would ideally contain items such as reflective, warm and waterproof clothing, gloves, hat, boots or wellingtons, foldable shovel, cat litter (for additional grip if you get caught on ice), some biscuits or snack bars, water/fluid to drink and for worst case scenarios, a candle and matches and a sleeping bag or blanket to keep you warm if you have to sit it out until morning. A fully charged mobile phone is also advisable or at least a charger cable. This has saved lives in the past.
Contact your Breakdown Company
Once everyone involved is in a safe location and the car has been made visible and safe, it is time to call for breakdown assistance. If you are on the motorway there are sign and marker posts that can give a more precise location of where you are and in which direction you are travelling.
If you do not have a mobile phone then look for a roadside emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway and they will patch you through to the Highways Agency. Never cross the carriageway to find one.
If you are on A and B roads then a map or satnav will come in handy when explaining your location to the rescue services.
Getting Back on the Road
If your vehicle was repaired at the roadside and has been made road-safe again, build up speed on the hard shoulder and ensure that you find a large enough gap to re-join the road safely. Whilst doing this be mindful of other cars which may be stationary or on the hard shoulder.
On A & B roads don’t forget to pick up your warning triangle, with care, before you carry on with your journey.