What To Do If You Breakdown On A Motorway
With 83,300 average journeys a day on the UK motorways, it comes as no surprise that breakdowns on them are super common – and unfortunately injuries and fatalities too.
Highways England have released their biggest campaign yet on motorway safety, with their multi-million pound adverts; “Go Left”. This has come in due to the staggering statistics that found that in 2019 there were 6,603 injuries from car breakdowns and accidents on the motorways – 105 of them being fatal.
The light-hearted safety advert inspired us here at Number1Plates to help spread the awareness, and educate those who aren’t aware of these potentially life-saving tips!
What to do if you break down on the motorway:
Broken Down On A Motorway With A Hard Shoulder
Get off of the motorway
It is crucial to get out of the way of the flow of traffic. If possible, take the nearest exit and clear off of the motorway.
If there is no nearby exit junction, put your left indicator on and go left (when there is a gap in traffic) into the hard shoulder. Stay here.
As soon as you are in a safe place such as the hard shoulder, put your hazard warning lights on.
If it is dark or there is any fog, make sure to put your fog and side lights on so that you can be visible to other vehicles and the breakdown recovery people too!
Make sure to make yourself visible also, by putting on a high-vis jacket and even take a torch with you if you have one. This will help your visibility in case the light drops.
Out of the left-hand side, get out of the vehicle quickly and safely.
Proceed to go behind the nearest safety barrier with all other passengers in the vehicle.
Take any items you may need, such as water, food and medication. Do not bother with other items that are not necessary, as these could waste time – the sooner you’re out of the vehicle, the better.
Leave any animals in the car to avoid any collisions from other vehicles. They are a potential problem as they could become scared and run into the traffic. You can remove the pet from the vehicle if it is an emergency, but the animal should be kept under total control and never allowed to run off.
Remember to stay away from your vehicle and the traffic. No matter what the weather is, it is crucial to stay away from any moving traffic for obvious reasons.
Use your mobile phone, or walk to the nearest emergency phone (S.O.S Phones, these directly call Highways England and give your location automatically).
Call Highways England on 0300 123 5000, and they will help you. They will give you all necessary instructions and assistance, including calling additional help if necessary!
Call a breakdown recovery provider straight after.
Broken Down On A Motorway Without A Hard Shoulder (SMART Motorways)
Get off of the motorway
If possible, take the nearest exit off of the motorway and into a safe place.
If there is no nearby exit junction, make your way to the nearest Emergency Refuge Area (ERA), this will be indicated with a blue sign and an orange SOS phone symbol. Stay here as it is a safe place for your vehicle – it’s out of the way of the flow of traffic and in a designated area for breakdowns.
As soon as you are in a safe place, put your hazard warning lights on.
If it is dark or there is any fog, make sure to put your fog and side lights on, as this will help you be visible to others.
If possible then make yourself visible also by putting on a high-vis jacket and even take a torch with you if you have one, as this may come in handy.
Out of the left-hand side, get out of the vehicle as quickly and safely as possible. The sooner you are out of the vehicle, the better.
Proceed to go behind the nearest safety barrier with all other passengers.
Take any items you may need, such as water, food and medication or items for warmth. It is crucial to leave any unnecessary items behind and not waste time taking them with you.
Leave any animals in the car to avoid any collisions from other vehicles. Only remove pets if it is absolutely necessary – they can cause many issues, so make sure that they are under total control.
Remember to stay away from your vehicle and the traffic. This is especially important on SMART motorways, as the constant flow of traffic means that there is a higher chance of injury or collision if you are anywhere near the vehicle.
Use your mobile phone, or walk to the nearest emergency phone. These SOS phones directly call Highways England and give your location automatically.
They will give you instructions and offer all assistance possible, including calling additional help if necessary. Once you’re off the phone with Highways, then you should call your breakdown recovery provider straight after.
If you can’t manage to go left into a hard shoulder or leave where you are, it is important that you stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt fastened, put your hazards on and ring 999 straight away. It is important not to panic and follow the steps that the emergency services give.
The Crucial DON’TS:
- DON’T attempt to repair anything on your vehicle, no matter how big or small.
- DON’T take animals and pets out of the vehicle, unless it is an emergency.
- DON’T put a warning triangle on your vehicle.
- DON’T stand anywhere near the vehicle or the flow of traffic.
Ways To Avoid Breakdowns:
Of course some breakdowns are unavoidable, and unforeseen.
However there are a few steps that can be taken to try avoid any breakdowns:
- Emergency Contacts
Keep all emergency contacts in your phone prior to setting off on journeys. These include the “Highways England – 0300 123 5000”, a breakdown recovery provider.
- Check the Dash
This one should be fairly obvious. Check the dashboard for any sort of warning lights or unfamiliar signs. If there are any at all, sort them out before you make any journey!
- Check Fuel, Tyres & Oil
For the fuel, ensure that you have a full tank or can easily access fuel on the way. For the tyres, ensure that the tread is greater than 1.6mm, and that they are fully inflated and run no risk of deflating! Similarly with oil, it is necessary to ensure that the oil is at the correct level.
A full list of car checks can be found on the Highways England website here: