The significance of car safety cannot be overstated. When your vehicle unexpectedly breaks down, it doesn’t just put your schedule into disarray; it also poses a potential safety hazard, both to you and other road users. Therefore, it’s essential to be well-prepared and understand what to do if such a situation arises. This blog post is geared towards enhancing your preparedness for these unwanted occurrences, laying out ten practical safety tips that every driver should remember when their car breaks down.
1. Safely Pull Over
When your car starts showing signs of trouble, your immediate reaction should be to pull over safely. As soon as you sense something is wrong, signal your intentions and gently steer your vehicle to the side of the road, ideally towards a breakdown lane, shoulder, or parking lot. Avoid abrupt maneuvers, as these can startle other drivers and increase the risk of an accident.
Always strive to move your car out of the flow of traffic, if possible. If your vehicle stops suddenly and you can’t pull over, switch on your hazard lights immediately to alert other road users of your predicament.
2. Call for Assistance
After a safety pullover, it’s essential to call for professional assistance. Contact a reputable roadside assistance service or towing company to request help. Explain your location, the nature of the problem, and any other relevant details. It’s also important to know the difference between towing and recovery so you can tell the roadside assistance provider which specific service you require.
During the call, clearly explain your location to the service provider. Give them specific information like nearby landmarks, road signs, or exit numbers to help them locate you quickly and accurately. When in doubt about your location, note any signs or landmarks that can help you provide more precise information.
3. Use Hazard Lights and Emergency Signals
As soon as you come to a stop, it’s important to activate your hazard lights. Hazard lights are the universal signal for a vehicle in distress, alerting other drivers to exercise caution and provide space.
In addition to hazard lights, consider using emergency signals such as reflective triangles or flares, especially if you’re stranded at night or in low visibility conditions. These signals can significantly improve your vehicle’s visibility and reduce the risk of a collision.
4. Exit the Car Safely
Once you’ve safely pulled over, you might need to exit the vehicle. Remember, safety is paramount here. Always exit the car on the side that is away from traffic. If that is impossible due to the car’s position or roadside barriers, be extremely careful when exiting on the traffic side.
Use your mirrors to check for oncoming traffic before opening the door, and once outside, move away from the vehicle and the road. In situations with heavy traffic or high-speed roads, it may be safer to remain in your car with the seatbelt fastened until help arrives.
5. Stay with Your Car
After you’ve called for help, it’s typically best to stay with your vehicle. Leaving your car can expose you to a variety of hazards, particularly on busy roads or in poor weather conditions. Remaining inside your vehicle also makes it easier for emergency services or roadside assistance to find you.
However, if you perceive an immediate danger – such as smoke or a fire in the car – prioritize your safety and move as far away from the vehicle as possible. In general, the safest place to wait for assistance is inside your car, buckled up, especially if you are on a busy highway or during inclement weather.
6. Set Up Warning Signals
If you have warning triangles, flares, or other emergency signals in your car (as you should), now is the time to use them. Place them a suitable distance behind your car to warn oncoming traffic of your presence. Remember, the goal is to make your vehicle as visible as possible, giving other drivers plenty of time to move into another lane.
These signals are especially important if your car has broken down in a curve, over a hill, or in any other location where visibility might be compromised. Follow the instructions on your warning device regarding the proper placement to maximize its effectiveness.
7. Don’t Try to Fix It Yourself on a Busy Road
Even if you consider yourself handy with car repairs, trying to fix your vehicle on the side of a busy road can be highly risky. Aside from the danger posed by oncoming traffic, you may also cause additional damage to your car if you don’t diagnose the problem correctly.
The shoulder of a road is for emergencies, not repairs. Therefore, unless it’s a minor fix that can be handled quickly and safely (like changing a flat tire), it’s better to wait for professional help. Safety is always more important than saving time or avoiding a repair bill.
8. Stay Aware of Your Surroundings
When your car breaks down, it’s essential to stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings. This includes keeping an eye on the road, weather conditions, and the people around you. If you’re in an isolated area, be cautious of anyone who isn’t a police officer or roadside assistance mechanic offering help.
Also, be aware of your personal belongings. It’s easy in stressful situations to leave your purse, wallet, or phone in plain sight, which can invite theft. Be sure to keep your doors locked and windows up, particularly if you are driving alone.
9. Don’t Accept Rides from Strangers
While it’s comforting to think that people have good intentions when they stop to offer a ride or assistance, it’s important to err on the side of caution. You can’t be entirely certain of a stranger’s intentions, so it’s generally safer to decline offers of a lift from unknown individuals.
Politely express your appreciation for their offer, but let them know that you’ve already called for professional assistance. If they persist, or if you feel uncomfortable, stay in your car with the doors locked and windows up, and phone the police if necessary.
10. Practice Patience
A car breakdown can be stressful and frustrating, especially if you are running late or in an unfamiliar location. It’s natural to want the situation resolved as quickly as possible. However, it’s essential to remain patient. Rushing could lead to rash decisions that might jeopardize your safety or further damage your vehicle.
Remember that help is on the way. Use the time to gather your thoughts, alert anyone waiting for you about the delay, or even review the car’s manual for insight into the issue. Staying calm and patient not only helps you think more clearly but also helps when interacting with roadside assistance and mechanics.
Experiencing a car breakdown can be an unnerving experience. Still, with these safety tips, you can navigate the situation confidently and ensure your safety. Understanding your vehicle, regular maintenance, and preparedness can significantly reduce the likelihood and impact of such incidents. But, should a breakdown occur, remember to pull over safely, make your vehicle visible, call for professional help, and, importantly, remain patient.
Also, make sure to have essential items such as a flashlight, jumper cables, a tire pressure gauge, basic tools, and a first aid kit to handle unexpected situations and stay safe until professional help arrives.