What to do immediately after breaking down
What you should do depends to some extent on where you have broken down and the reason for it. Guidance is different depending on whether you’ve broken down on a normal road or on a motorway, so let’s consider each in turn:
Breaking down on a regular road
It’s important to consider other road users when you breakdown. It’s a good idea to do the following:
- Get your vehicle off the road if possible as this is safer for you and other road users.
- Turn on your hazard warning lights to warn other road users that you have a problem.
- It will help you and others if you have light-coloured or fluorescent clothing in daylight and reflective clothing at night or in poor visibility. It’s a good idea to put a fluorescent vest in your boot, just in case.
- If you have one, put a warning triangle on the road at least 45 metres (147 feet) behind your broken-down vehicle on the same side of the road. Be really careful when you do this. This should also never be attempted on a motorway.
- If you’re able to, keep your sidelights on if it is dark or visibility is poor. The more you can be seen, the safer for you and others.
- Never stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic or anywhere that you will prevent other road users from seeing your lights.
- When it’s safe to do so and if you’re a member, call your breakdown company to come and help you.
Breaking down on a motorway
A motorway, with fast flowing lanes of traffic, is the most dangerous place to breakdown – so be sure you know what to do.
- If you suspect your car might have an issue, get off the motorway as soon as you can by taking the next exit or pulling in to services.
- If that’s not possible, pull on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible. Turn your wheels to the left. Never attempt to place a warning triangle on a motorway.
- Again if you can, try to stop near an emergency telephone. They can be found at approximately one mile intervals along the motorway. You’ll know where your nearest one is as there are arrows on posts situated along the hard shoulder.
- Get out of your car by the left-hand door and make your passengers do the same. If you’ve got the family dog with you, make sure it is kept under control on a lead.
- Even if you believe you can repair things yourself, don’t put yourself in danger by attempting even simple repairs.
- Get everyone away from the road, behind a barrier preferably and not behind your broken down car. Keep a keen eye on children (and the dog if necessary).
- Only when this is done should you call your breakdown service or walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway. The telephone is free to use and will connect you directly to an operator. The Highway Code recommends that you use these phones in preference to a mobile phone as your location can be pin-pointed.
- After giving full details to the operator, including telling them about any special circumstances such as if you’re disabled, old, or travelling alone, return and wait near your vehicle – but not too near the road.
- If there is no hard shoulder or you’re unable to get your vehicle to it, switch on your hazard lights immediately to alert other drivers. Only when you believe it’s safe to do so should you make your way off the carriageway. If you don’t feel you can, keep your seatbelt on and dial 999.
- Disabled drivers should switch on their hazard warning lights, and display a ‘Help’ pennant. If you have a mobile, call 999 from your vehicle.