Breaking down can be worrying, especially if you don’t know what to do. Here’s what you need to do to stay safe whilst help’s on the way.


If you notice a problem with your car, the Highway Code says to leave the motorway  at the next exit or pull into a service area. If this isn’t possible, you should pull onto the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible, whilst taking care from any soft verges, and stop with your wheels turned to the left.

Getting out of the car

Once you’ve stopped, put your hazard lights on, and if it’s dark your side lights. Leave the car by using the passenger side door, so that you’re not at risk of oncoming traffic. Make sure everyone in the car does the same, whether using the front or rear passenger doors, and that they keep well away from the road. If you breakdown on a motorway, move up the verge if it’s possible. If you have a reflective jacket in your car then you should put this on so it’s easier for others to see you. Warning triangles should never be used on a motorway – there’s a risk in even trying to put it out. If you’re on a road and it’s safe, you can put a warning triangle at least 45m behind your car.

What about pets?

It’s not considered safe to get your pets out of the car, even though you might want to. The Highway Code advises that they are left in the car, unless of emergency e.g. if the car is smoking or badly damaged. If that’s the case, take them out of the car but make sure they are kept under control, whether on a leash or in a pet carrier.

Calling for assistance

It is when everyone is safely out of the car and away from moving traffic that you should call for help, even simple repairs should not be attempted. If you don’t have a phone with you, walk to an emergency phone which will connect you directly to the highways agency or police. These are located at one-mile intervals along the hard shoulder and can be easily identified as bright orange boxes. When using the phone don’t turn your back to the traffic – you need to be as visible as possible to road users. Provide as much information as you can, including location and who you’re travelling with. Travelling alone, or if you’re disabled or with children may put you in a vulnerable situation.

Getting back to your car

Once you’ve got back to your car, wait a safe distance away from it ’til help arrives. If you have reason to feel at risk from another person at this time, get into your car from a passenger door and lock the doors.


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