When You Break Down
If you’ve ever broken down while driving down a busy road or highway, you know that it can be a stressful and frightening experience. Here is our step-by-step advice of what to do if you lose power or even blow out a tire while driving:
- If your vehicle isn’t working properly, safely pull away from traffic. Try to avoid stopping on busy streets and highways, and pull off to the emergency lane or level grass on the right if possible.
- Never get out of the vehicle to examine the issue or to make a repair or on a busy highway. Get the vehicle to a safe place before getting out.
- Use emergency blinkers to alert other drivers of your vehicle in daylight hours. If the incident occurs at night, blinkers can give the illusion a car is still moving, causing an accident—instead, turn on interior lights. If you can safely exit your vehicle, you may also place warning lights or reflective markers a safe distance away from the rear of your car.
- Call your roadside assistance club or insurance provider to get assistance as soon as possible. You may also call the local police if you are not safe and away from traffic flow.
- In the majority of cases it is best to remain in your vehicle, lock the doors, and only crack the window to speak with anyone that approaches.
- If you are located in a safe location and you need to exit the vehicle, be extremely cautious doing so. Never attempt to cross a major roadway.
- Once your Auto Towing professional arrives, he will ensure you get taken care of as quickly and safely as possible.
One topic that is heavily debated among driving safety experts is whether you should or should not get out of your vehicle if it has broken down. There is validity to both sides of the argument, and our stance is that you use your own judgment to analyze the situation. However, please realize this decision is incredibly important to you and your family’s safety. Our general guidelines follow, but we want to emphasize that they may not apply to all situations, and the circumstances should drive what you ultimately decide to do.
Off the Road
If you are located on the shoulder either left or right of traffic lanes and you can safely exit your vehicle, do so. Remember, you must be cautious, and you should never exit a door facing traffic lanes. After you exit the vehicle, stand at least 100 feet away from your vehicle and traffic. Weather, the distance your vehicle is from moving traffic, the volume of traffic, and the safety of the area you broke down in should all factor into your decision. The safer the circumstances, the safer it will be to exit the vehicle.
Middle of the Road
If you are located in a traffic lane because you were unable to make it to an emergency lane, again, we believe you should exit your vehicle, but only if you are given a safe opportunity to do so. Exiting a vehicle in the middle of the road is very dangerous, and it is imperative that you use your best judgment before doing so. Again, avoid exiting doors facing moving traffic if possible, and move at least 100 feet from traffic flow. Do not exit the vehicle if traffic is moving in lanes to the left or right of your vehicle. Weather, the volume and speed of traffic, the visibility of oncoming cars, and the safety of the area should all factor into the decision you make. The safer the situation, the safer it will be to exit the vehicle.
Here are some other things to keep in mind if your car happens to fail:
- Try to coast along the shoulder until you’re away from any curves in the road behind you. This placement pays off when you’re ready to get back onto the road because you can spot oncoming traffic before it’s on your tail.
- In the case of a blowout or a flat tire, move the vehicle to a safer place before attempting a repair—even if it means destroying the wheel getting there. The cost of a tire, rim or wheel is minor compared to endangering your safety!
- After breaking down on the side of the road, you shouldn’t attempt your own repairs if you don’t know what you’re doing. This can exacerbate the problem, and it’s risky to try and complete any work on a vehicle from the side of the road. More than 4,000 pedestrians are killed in the U.S. each year, so be careful.
- To avoid being hit by a passing vehicle, never work on your vehicle from the side that’s exposed to traffic. If you can, drive farther off the road to a safe, well-traveled place, and try to reach into the trouble area from the front or the side that’s away from traffic.
- When you are outside of your car on the highway be as visible as possible. If you don’t have a reflective vest, put on the lightest piece of clothing available and carry a flashlight at night.
- Warn other drivers by raising the vehicle’s hood, tying a white cloth to a door handle or using reflective triangles or flares. Warning devices should be placed far enough away from the vehicle to give oncoming traffic time to react. A good rule of thumb: three devices at 100, 50 and 25 yards from the vehicle – or 300, 200 or 100 feet.
- If it’s daylight, put on your emergency blinkers to alert oncoming traffic to the fact that your vehicle isn’t moving. This is not a good idea at night because motorists coming up behind you may think that your vehicle is still rolling along the highway and run right into the rear end of your car. Instead, turn on all interior lights, but be careful not to drain your battery.