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What do you do if your car breaks down on the motorway

We can all remember our first time driving on the motorway: after learning to drive on quiet, suburban roads, every young driver is keen to test themselves in the frantic, fast-paced environment of the motorway. And, while there is something of a thrill about that and you certainly feel more grown up when you first hit the M1 or M25, many people also wonder what to do if their car suffers a problem or, worse, breaks down completely.

First things first, it’s essential to leave the car in a safe manner and in a safe place. As soon as you notice a problem, pull over onto the hard shoulder, with your wheels turned to the left, and exit the car on the left hand side while leaving your hazard lights on. If visibility is particularly poor, leave your side lights on too.

All other passengers should also exit the vehicle – on the left hand side – and you should all move as far away from the vehicle and moving traffic as is possible. Look for one of the many marker posts which indicate the direction of the nearest emergency telephone. While in this day and age, you may just think it easier to use your mobile phone (and it usually is), unless you know your exact location then it will most probably be easier to use an emergency telephone – this will help the RAC, AA or other breakdown assistance find you, rather than relying on your rough estimation. However, if you do use a mobile, giving the details from the nearest marker sign will minimise the time you spend waiting at the side of the road.

There are, of course, occasions when drivers break down on the motorway and are unable to get the car onto the hard shoulder. For example, they’re overtaking in the fast lane and suffer a sudden problem, bringing the car to a halt. In this situation, it’s important not to leave your vehicle – attempting to cross the motorway will only put you in more danger.

Before doing anything else, call emergency services – not your roadside assistance company. Don’t ever attempt to exit the vehicle until the emergency services have arrived at the scene.

There are over 6,000 motorway breakdowns each year, and roadside assistance companies often express shock at how many people aren't sure of how to handle the situation.

If you’re fortunate, your roadside assistance company will be able to give you the reasoning behind your breakdown and set you on your way, without the need for a tow-truck. If this is the case, it’s important you set off safely; with your hazard lights still on, use the hard shoulder to bring yourself up to speed with the traffic before carefully pulling out on to the motorway.

Many drivers panic when they break down on the motorway but with a calm head and knowledge of what should be done, there should be no need to worry.

Driving Advice  31/03/2014 17:00:00

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