When you suspect that your car is about to break down while you are driving, especially on a motorway, your first priority is to get it off the road as quickly and safely as possible. Indicate left and use your mirrors to keep a close eye on surrounding traffic. Then manoeuvre your car off the road as far left as you can, in to the hard shoulder where possible. Point your wheels inwards and not out onto the road. If the breakdown happens in the hours of darkness, leave the side lights on. Whether it’s dark or daylight, don’t forget to put on the hazard lights.
If your car breaks down without any warning, and you are unable to reach the hard shoulder, manoeuvre your car as far to the left as possible. Put on the hazard lights and call the emergency services – 999.
In all circumstances, as soon as your vehicle comes to a halt, make sure that everyone gets out – including the driver. We know from reports in the media how dangerous it can be to sit in a stationary vehicle on the road or on the side of the road. No matter how bad the weather, no matter how good the visibility, the driver and passengers must all exit from the passenger side of the vehicle. The importance of this cannot be over-emphasised – lives are literally at stake. Leave any pets in the car unless they have a proper lead. Everyone must get as far from the roadside as possible. If there is a railing, everyone should make their way to the far side. If there is no railing, keep everyone as far away from moving traffic as possible.
Once everyone is safely away from the vehicle, it is time to call for help. Most insurance policies include breakdown assistance cover, so your first call is to your insurance company. They will tell you what happens next.
If you are not covered for breakdown assistance, call Highway Assistance from one of the emergency phones located every kilometre on the side of the motorway. Don’t forget to have your vehicle registration number with you, and make a note of your precise location. Highway Assistance will then contact a local garage that will come out to you.
While you are waiting for roadside assistance to arrive, stay well away from the side of the road. Under no circumstance should you congregate around the car trying to fix the problem, even if you think you can. Wait for help to arrive.