Commercial insurance article archive
What to do if you break down on the motorway
For most motorists, the idea of breaking down while driving on the motorway has to be one of the scariest ideas of all. While it's something we all dread, though, surveys show that almost 10% of us have no idea what to do if that motorway breakdown actually happens.
Here are some basic "rules" to bear in mind:
Pull onto the hard shoulder – but don't stay in your vehicle
Many drivers view the hard shoulder as a "safe" zone, but you're actually more likely to be involved in a serious accident while parked on the shoulder than when travelling on the motorway itself. It's the best place for your car, but it's not the best place for you or your passengers, so once you've safely parked your vehicle you should get out and get off the hard shoulder altogether, climbing up the embankment if at all possible.
Exit by the left-hand doors
This applies to all passengers, even the driver. It may be uncomfortable climbing over the central console, but infinitely safer than exiting through the door that leads onto busy traffic.
Try to stop next to an SOS phone
Not sure where you are? Don't worry: the SOS phones you'll find every mile or so along the motorway pinpoint your exact location, allowing breakdown assistance to find out where you are. For this reason, it's better to use one of these phones than your mobile, as assistance will reach you faster.
What if you can't get the car onto the hard shoulder?
If you break down in the overtaking lane, switch on your hazard lights immediately, and only leave the vehicle once it’s safe to do so – remembering at all times that motorway speeds are far higher than those you're used to in urban areas.
Switch on your hazard lights
Even when you're on the hard shoulder, your hazard lights will help make other drivers aware of you.
Don't be tempted to try to fix the problem yourself
Even if the problem is a relatively simple one, like a flat tyre, resist the impulse to fix it yourself, and wait for the professionals to arrive. Working on the hard shoulder isn't safe, so follow our first tip and stay away from the vehicle.
If you're a lone driver
Those travelling on the motorway can feel particularly vulnerable, especially if they're female: in fact, studies show that the fear of being stranded alone on a dark stretch of motorway after a breakdown stops many women from using the motorway at all. While a large number of good Samaritans will stop to offer assistance (The Highways Agency suggests that one in five men will do so), many lone drivers dislike being approached, and anxiety will force many of them to return to their locked vehicles.
There is some comfort for such drivers, though: for instance, the ERS breakdown recovery service offered by Computer Quote Insurance gives priority to lone or vulnerable drivers, meaning they have less time to wait for help to arrive.
13 Dec 2007