Staying safe if you break down on the motorway

Should your vehicle ever have a problem on a motorway, the advice of the Highway Code is to leave the motorway at the next exit or enter the service station area. However, this is not always possible, so it’s important to pull over onto the designated hard shoulder lane. Come to a stop as much to the left as possible, with your steering wheel positioned left and as near to the emergency telephone as you can.

Here are some tips to consider for staying safe should your vehicle breakdown on the motorway:

Pull onto the hard shoulder

Exit the vehicle at the left door, away from traffic

Ensure all passengers do the same

Turn on your danger lights

Call your breakdown recovery service. These vehicles will have highly visible markings on the rear for safety. For more information on Chapter 8 Chevrons, visit a Vehicle Chevrons supplier.

Exit the vehicle on the left

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After you pull over to the hard shoulder and the vehicle stops, get out of the vehicle. You have to leave the vehicle on the left – side of the passenger – so you don’t run the risk of passing traffic. Make sure all passengers do the same thing, and they stay away from the traffic lane.

Turn on hazard lights, and, if it’s dark, turn on your side lights too. If it’s misty, turn on the fog lights. In general, if you are unable to see for more than 100 meters, the visibility is poor and that’s when it’s wise to use your fog lights.

Your goal is to make your vehicle look as clear and obvious as possible, especially for other drivers. Do not place a warning triangle behind the car.

Leave pets in the vehicle

It is not safe to let pets and animals out of the vehicle. Highway Code guidance states that they should left in the vehicle – unless you believe it to be an emergency situation, in which case, remove them from the vehicle but make sure they stay in control at all times. Uncontrolled pet risks near highways and fast-moving vehicles are clear and represent danger.

If you have no mobile signal? Use an emergency telephone

If you do not have access to a mobile telephone – or the battery runs out – then you need to use an emergency telephone. It is located at a distance of a mile along the hard shoulder and is easily identified because it is in a bright orange box.

If you break down, you must walk to an emergency telephone. Face the approaching traffic and follow the arrow on the pole at the back of the hard shoulder. Emergency phones are free of charge and are connected directly to the Highway Agency or the police.

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Always face traffic when you talk on the telephone. Give as much details as possible – including your location – and notify the Highway Agency or police if you are a vulnerable motorist such as people with disabilities, traveling alone, older, or with young children.

Return to your vehicle

After the call is made, walk back to your vehicle and wait. Stay away from hard footpaths and shoulders. If you have a reason to feel at risk from someone else at that time, get in the vehicle – from the left side – and lock all the doors.


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