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05.12.2015 Breaking down on the motorway

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Despite the fact that traffic hurtles along them at 70mph (or even a bit more), motorways are the safest roads in the country. However, if you find yourself breaking down, they can suddenly become one of the most dangerous places to be.

If you pull up on the hard shoulder, all it takes is for one distracted lorry driver to clip the side of your car and… well, you can probably guess.

So, if you do end up breaking down on the motorway, here’s what to do to make sure that you stay as safe as possible.

  • Pull onto the hard shoulder safely, keeping as far left as possible, leave your car in gear and apply the handbrake.
  • Put your hazards on and leave your sidelights on if visibility is poor.
  • Ensure all occupants, including yourself, leave via the passenger side, to avoid being wiped out by a lorry. Stand well back from the carriageway, behind the safety barriers if possible.
  • Don’t try any repairs yourself. Even attempting to change a tyre is out of the question, it’s far too dangerous!
  • Walk to an orange emergency phone; they’re a mile apart. Markers every 100 yards indicate the direction to the nearest phone. Using one of these is better than a mobile as it allows the operator to accurately pinpoint your position.
  • Wait until help arrives and remain well back from the carriageway.

Managed motorways

On a lot of motorways these days, the government has tried to ease traffic flow by opening up the hard shoulder to moving vehicles.

Called managed motorways, these have an emergency refuge every so often instead of a hard shoulder.

If you break down on a managed motorway, try to get to one of the refuges. If you can’t, put your hazards on and slow down gradually in the inside lane (what would normally be the hard shoulder). This should prevent people running into the back of you.

As soon as you’ve stopped, get everyone out of the car and off the carriageway. Managed motorways have loads of CCTV and are patrolled by Highways Agency officers, so there’ll be someone along to help you in no time.

Don’t stop

The hard shoulder is for emergencies only. Use the next service station if you have to:

  • Check directions
  • Go to the loo
  • Answer a phone call
  • Have a drink
  • Have a nap
  • Have a stretch

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