While drivers on British roads are understandably more interested in looking at road maps and plotting their next fun jaunt, it is worth acquainting yourself with what you should do if your car breaks down.
Follow these tips and you will have extra peace of mind when behind the wheel.
1. Get your vehicle off the road
This is the most obvious piece of advice and also the most important. You might not have a choice of where to stop but if you do then try to stop as far to the left as possible (the side on which the British drive). Turn your wheels to the left when your vehicle is at rest and you can safeguard against your car being knocked back into the flow of traffic. If you are on a motorway and your car breaks down try and stop near an emergency telephone – there should be one at every mile-interval on the hard shoulder. It is important to state at this point that you should use an emergency phone on the side of the road on which your car has broken down: never cross the motorway to access one. Calls from these hard-shoulder phones connect directly to the police and are free too.
2. Deploy your lights
Have you ever wondered what your vehicle’s hazard warning lights are for? They are there to be turned on if your car is causing an obstruction on the road. If it is dark then turn on your other car lights to improve your vehicle’s visibility – don’t stand in a position where you will obscure these lights.
3. Assess the situation
When your car comes to rest make sure that all your passengers are okay: keeping calm is essential.
If you are travelling with pets and break down on the motorway then it is sound practice to leave them in the vehicle. As ruthless as this sounds it prevents them from running amok among the traffic. If you do insist on evacuating them from the car then always make sure they are under control. This goes for child passengers too!
5. Improving your visibility
Whenever possible wear a fluorescent reflective jacket or tabard to ensure that you can’t be missed by motorists driving at speed close to your broken-down vehicle. Don’t stand between your vehicle and oncoming traffic.
6. Improving the visibility of your car
You should have a warning triangle in your car – a vital piece of equipment if you break down. Taking great care, place the warning triangle on the same side of the road at a distance of at least 45 metres behind your car. Doing so will warn other road users to take care when passing your broken-down vehicle. While these warning triangles are invaluable they should not be used on motorways as placing them is just too dangerous given the speed of the traffic on these roads.
7. Evacuating the vehicle
When on the motorway hard shoulder always leave the vehicle by the left-side doors.
8. Getting help
If there is a danger of petrol spillage or fumes then you should resist the urge to immediately call for assistance from your mobile phone. When it is safe you can call the emergency services by dialling 999 (the international emergency number is 112). And don’t forget to call your breakdown cover company’s helpline number.
9. Explaining the situation
The organisation giving you assistance will find it helpful to have as clear a picture of your location as possible. If you don’t know exactly where you are then look out for local land marks to provide some clues. It should be easier to clarify further vital details such as your vehicle type, registration number and number of passengers. If you know the cause of the breakdown then tell the person at the other end of the line; it will help them to help you.
And if you are feel particularly vulnerable – for instance, you are a female driver travelling alone with children – then it’s okay to say this to the person you’re speaking to.
10. And finally…
If on the motorway then you should wait for help from behind the barrier on the motorway embankment. And wherever you are, when assistance arrives always ask for proof of identity. There are always people who will help you after you have broken down but it’s best to know who they are when they offer assistance!