UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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There are few feelings in life worse than driving in traffic and realizing your car isn’t going to make it. If you start noticing your engine light flickering, your gas meter dropping, your engine sputtering, and you hear some strange noises being from your vehicle, chances are you are about to break down. While easier said than done, the best thing you can do in that situation is to not panic.
According to a recent survey by Allstate, when people break down on the side of the road, 47% feel overwhelmed and helpless, 62% get anxious, 52% get angry, and 36% get scared. 40% of the people surveyed said that their first instinct is to immediately call for help. While calling for help is necessary in many situations, it might not be the best thing to do right off the bat.
Steps To Take After Breaking Down On The Side Of The Road
While it can be very nerve-racking, you must remain calm in order to keep yourself safe. If possible, the following eight steps should be followed (in order) to guide you through this stressful time.
Turn On Your Hazard Lights
When you flick on your hazard lights, drivers behind you will recognize that something is wrong. You should keep your hazard lights on the whole duration of time your car is broken down on the side of the road, from the moment you realize something is wrong until it is towed.
Pull Off To The Side Of The Road If You Can
Try to pull over far away from any curves in the road behind you. This will allow you to easily get back onto the road and will also make you more visible to oncoming traffic.
If you can’t get over to the side of the road, make sure you do not get out of your vehicle. Being stuck in the middle of the road is scary, but trying to get out of a vehicle and run away to safety across the highway is insane. If you can, turn on any interior and exterior lights you have to increase visibility. Most highways are heavily patrolled; so chances are you won’t be a “sitting duck” for long.
Like stated above, you should put on your hazard lights immediately. This should make your situation obvious to most motorists behind you. To further help your cause (after you are out of your vehicle), you should place flares or neon warning triangles around your car. They often come with your car’s safety kit. You could also hang a white cloth or a white piece of paper outside your driver’s side window. This will let people know that you are in trouble and that they can proceed around you.
Prevent Your Car From Moving (Rolling)
Turn your wheel away from the road and put your emergency brake on. This is especially helpful if your car is facing downward on a hill. You do not want your car rolling out into traffic and causing even more problems.
Carefully Get Out Of The Car
As stated earlier, if you were not able to pull over to the side of the road and are still in the middle of the road, stay in the car and wait for help. If you are on the shoulder or the side of the road, make sure there are no cars coming up fast behind you before getting out. If you are on the right side of the road, climb over and get out of the car on the passenger side. If you are on the left side of the road, you can get out through the driver’s side door.
Trust your gut instinct. If it seems too dangerous to get out of the car in your current situation, keep your seat belt buckled and stay put! Like said above, highways and major roadways are heavily patrolled and help is most likely already on the way before you even reach for your cell phone.
Call For Help
If your car has “OnStar” or some other type of roadside assistance provider try contacting them. If not, use your mobile phone to call up a tow truck or AAA. If the situation is serious, call 9-1-1. If your phone is dead or you do not have a phone on your person, a passing by motorist might be able to call for help. If no methods of communication are available, you will have to wait patiently for a patrolman or a policeman to drive by.
Pop Your Hood
You can either pop your hood before or after you get out of your vehicle. A popped hood is one of the universal signs of a broken down car. When drivers see a popped hood on a car in the breakdown lane, they know to pass with caution.
Patiently Wait For Help
Stay near your car, but safely away from speeding traffic, as you wait for help to arrive. You might be tempted to walk to the next exit for help, but realize that this is not only dangerous but often times illegal. You also do not want to have your abandoned car towed when you are away seeking help. As stated many times above, help is most likely already on the way, so the best thing you can do is wait patiently for it to arrive.