Breaking down on the motorway

If you break  down, roadside and breakdown assistance can be a real life saver. But it is  important to make sure you and your passengers are safe before calling for  help.

Breaking down on the motorway

If you break  down on the motorway there are certain procedures you should follow. If your  car is still moving, it may be safer to exit the motorway if possible before  calling for assistance. If you break down while still on the motorway, the Highways  Agency says you should: 

  • Pull onto the hard shoulder as far to the left as possible. 
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights. 
  • Exit the car from the left hand door. Make sure all passengers do  the same. 
  • Leave animals in the car or ensure they are properly controlled on  the verge. 
  • Contact the Highways Agency and wait for help to arrive, staying  well away from the hard shoulder and carriageway. Do not re-enter the car. 

Remember,  the hard shoulder is for emergencies only. It shouldn't be used for toilet  stops, to make a non-emergency call on a mobile phone, or to check a map or  directions. If you cannot get across to the hard shoulder, you should switch on  your hazard warning lights and leave your vehicle only when you can get clear  of the carriageway.

Breaking down on other roads

If you break  down on another road, it’s best to try and get your car off the road if  possible. Switch on your hazard warning lights, especially if you are causing  an obstruction.

If you fear  your car may be struck by other vehicles, leave the car and get well away from  the traffic before calling for assistance. If you have a warning triangle,  place this at least 45 metres behind your car on the same side of the road, but only if it is safe to do so.

Calling for assistance

If you break  down on the motorway, there are emergency telephones that connect directly to  the police or Highways Agency. These are free to use. The operative will be  able to take your details and pass them on to the relevant breakdown service.  If you do not have cover in place, they may also be able to suggest an  alternative, such as a breakdown cover service that will come out and  charge for assistance, or a local garage that may be able to tow your car and  fix it away from the motorway.

There are  posts at the back of the hard shoulder with arrows showing the direction of the  nearest emergency phone to your position. You should never cross the motorway  to use an emergency phone.

Even if you  have your own mobile phone, the Highways Agency suggests that you contact them  first using an emergency telephone. If you feel in danger, or have children or  other vulnerable passengers, it may be better to use your mobile phone. But you  should still get out and away from the vehicle first.

If you break  down on another type of road, a mobile phone might be the best way to call for  assistance. There are also smartphone apps available that may be able to help  pinpoint your location using GPS, as well as connecting to a breakdown service  provider.

Give as much information as possible

It will help  the breakdown service if you provide them with as many details as possible.  These can include your vehicle registration number and the make and colour of  your car. The location will also be important.

If calling  from an emergency phone on the motorway, the police or Highways Agency will be  able to ascertain your location from the phone you are calling from. If you are  using a mobile from the hard shoulder of a motorway or on an A-road, there may  be blue driver location signs that will help pinpoint your location. These are  usually situated at 500 metre intervals, and display the road name (such as M25  or A6), the direction of travel (represented by an 'A' or a 'B') and the  distance in kilometres from the start of the motorway.

On other  roads it may help if you can see a house number or an easily identifiable  landmark, such as a pub or other business. It may also help pinpoint your  location if you can see a junction with another road. If you have to walk to  find a phone, it may help to write down as many details as you can before you  set off. If you have breakdown assistance cover, it will also help to take your  card or membership details with you.

The person  who answers the phone will probably want to know as much information as possible about the problem to pass on to the mechanics. Even if you know  nothing about cars and have no idea what the fault is, describe the symptoms as  best as you can. They may also ask if you have children or feel vulnerable, and  may prioritise you if this is the case. You will generally be given an  estimated response time and be advised to wait in or near your vehicle. If you feel your vehicle may be causing a hazard to other road users you should also mention this fact.

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