Road Safety Guides - What To Do If You Break Down

By: M. Scriven

If your vehicle breaks down, think about safety, first: Here's a straightforward safety guide from GEM Motoring Assist, the leading UK driver based road safety association.

Consider your own safety

- get your vehicle off the road if possible

- ensure your passengers are safe and that animals are kept under control.

Warn other road users

- warn other traffic by using your hazard warning lights if your vehicle is causing an obstruction

- 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, or use other permitted warning devices if you have them. Always take great care when placing them, but never use them on motorways as this may put you in danger from oncoming traffic

- keep your sidelights on if it is dark or visibility is poor

- do not stand (or let anybody else stand) between your vehicle and oncoming traffic

- at night or in poor visibility do not stand where you will prevent other road users seeing your lights

- wear a reflective/fluorescent jacket or tabard.

Calling for help

- do not use mobile phones if there is a danger from petrol spillage or fumes

- contact the emergency services by dialing 999 or 112 (new international emergency code), or if you are a member call GEM Motoring Assist Breakdown Cover or other breakdown organisation

- give clear instructions of your general location: road number, direction of travel and specific local landmarks will aid your rescue

- also tell them your vehicle type and colour, registration number and how many persons are in the vehicle

- an indication of the cause of the breakdown will also help

- when help arrives, ask for proof of identity.

On Motorways - safety first

Leave the motorway at the nearest exit or pull into a service area. When this is not possible:

- use your indicators or hazard warning lights and pull on to the hard shoulder. Stop as far to the left as possible, with your wheels turned to the left

- try to stop near an emergency telephone (every mile on the hard shoulder) with the front passenger door as close to the phone as possible

- you must leave the vehicle by the left-hand passenger doors

- wear a reflective/fluorescent jacket or tabard

- do not cross the carriageway to reach a closer phone it is safer to wait on the verge. (Remember, 10% of motorway accidents are collisions with vehicles parked on the hard shoulder.)

- do not leave the keys in the car. If possible, lock all the doors except the front passenger door, which you should leave fully open so you can get back in quickly if needs be

- keep passengers away from the carriageway and children under control. Make sure children are safe - do not leave them in the car by themselves

- if you are an elderly or disabled person, or have small children with you, you may decide it is more sensible to stay in the vehicle. If so, park it as close to the verge as possible

- you must leave animals in the vehicle, with windows only far enough down to let in air. Only let them out of the vehicle in an emergency, but keep them under proper control on the verge

- do not attempt even simple repairs and do not leave the car bonnet open.

On Motorways - getting help

- walk to the nearest emergency telephone, following the arrows on the marker posts every 100 metres at the back of the hard shoulder. Calls are free and connect directly to the Police - they will know where you are. Stand behind the phone and watch out for passing traffic, or anyone approaching you

- give full details, also inform them if you feel vulnerable. Tell them the number of your breakdown organisation, your car registration and the number shown on the nearest marker post

- return and wait near your vehicle, preferably behind the barrier on the motorway embankment

- when help arrives, ask for ID and check that the breakdown person knows your name

- NEVER get into a car with a stranger or try to hitch a lift

- if someone offers help, stay inside your car with the doors locked (keep windows partially open) and ask them to phone your breakdown organisation for you

- if a car stops while you are waiting for help and you feel uneasy, stay in the passenger seat of your car and lock the door. Phone the Police and give them the car's registration number

- when rejoining the motorway, always increase speed on the hard shoulder and watch for a safe gap in the traffic.

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