Breakdowns & Emergencies

Breakdowns & Emergencies

Even a well-maintained vehicle can break down or have a puncture so it’s always best to plan ahead in case of emergencies. It is advisable to keep the details of your breakdown cover handy, to carry drinks/snacks in case of a long wait and a warm blanket/coat in the winter. Keep a reflective jacket, warning triangle and emergency waterproof in the boot. Hopefully you will never have to use them, but they could make all the difference.

If you do break down, try to pull your vehicle off the road, but watch out for soft verges. Switch your hazards on and side lights as well if visibility is poor. Wear a hi vis jacket, and put a warning triangle at least 50m behind your vehicle to alert other traffic. Do not stay in your car if it could be hit by other traffic, but if you have pulled into a layby or other safe area then its fine to remain in the vehicle. Call for assistance, and lock the car doors if you feel unsafe or don’t know the area. Only try to change a wheel or fix the car if you have the right tools, it is safe to do so and you aren’t at risk of being hit by other vehicles.

Motorway Breakdowns

Motorways are a dangerous place to have a breakdown and the advice to keep yourself safe is not the same as for breakdowns on other roads. If you are unfortunate enough to breakdown on the motorway follow these tips:

Pull on to the hard shoulder and put your hazards on immediately.
Leave your wheels turned to the left so that if the car is shunted it won’t travel out into the carriageway.
Get out of the car through the left side doors (right on the continent) and stand behind the safety barrier (it is advised to leave pets in the car as there is a risk they may become spooked and run into traffic).
Stay to the rear of the car, so if it is hit by another vehicle you aren’t in line.
Don’t put out a warning triangle, but do wear a hi vis jacket. 
Don’t try to fix your car or change a tyre.
Call for assistance on the emergency phones (rather than your mobile) situated every mile. These free phones will connect you directly to the police and Highways Agency who will know exactly where you are and send the emergency services, breakdown recovery and even contact your friends or family. There are way markers every 100m which will give your location and the direction of the nearest phone.

Smart Motorways

If a hard shoulder is unavailable then pull in to an Emergency Refuge Area, indicated by a blue sign with an orange phone symbol, and follow the above advice. If you can’t reach an ERA, then pull your vehicle over as far left as you can onto a verge or towards the barrier. Do exit the vehicle if at all possible and use the emergency phone or dial 999 immediately. You will be assisted by the regional traffic control centre that monitors the smart motorway scheme.  Click here for more about smart motorways.


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