Breakdowns on the Motorway

If your car develops a problem whilst you are on the motorway, don't panic. If at all possible, you should pull into a service area or leave the motorway at the next exit. However, if the fault is so serious that you cannot drive very far, follow these guidelines to reduce the risks of a motorway breakdown:

If You Break Down

  • If your car develops a fault, pull over to the hard shoulder quickly and safely, making sure that you indicate clearly. If possible, try to stop near an emergency telephone; these are situated at approximately one mile intervals along the hard shoulder.
  • Never stop on the central reservation or the road itself; even if your engines cuts out, you should be able to coast to the hard shoulder.
  • If one of your tyres blows out, carefully steer the car to the hard shoulder and allow it to roll to a halt; DO NOT slam on the brakes.
  • Once you are safely onto the hard shoulder, parks as far as you can to the left, with your wheels turned to the left.
  • Put on your sidelights and your hazard warning lights to alert other drivers to your presence.
  • Lock all the doors apart from the passenger door.
  • Everyone in the car should exit using the left hand passenger doors; however, you should leave any animals in the vehicle.
  • Make sure that all your passengers stand well away from the car; preferably behind a barrier or up the embankment.
  • If you carry reflective jackets or waistcoats in your car, make sure that you and your passengers wear them.
  • Do not use a reflective triangle.
  • Do not attempt even simple repairs.

Calling for Help

Even if you have a mobile phone, it is much better to use the official motorway phones, as they will provide the operator with your exact location. The telephone is free of charge and connects directly to the police.

  • Look for the arrows at the side of the road to guide you to the nearest emergency telephone. They are located 1 mile apart, so you should never have to walk more than half a mile to reach one.
  • If you have broken down at night, or visibility is poor, try to wear a reflective jacket or bright clothing and take a torch.
  • When you have reached the call box, make sure that you face oncoming vehicles whilst you make your call so that you can see the flow of traffic.
  • Give your full details to the police, and let them know if you are a vulnerable motorist, such as a woman travelling alone.
  • If you feel unable to use the motorway phone and decide to use your mobile, make sure you can describe your location, with the motorway number and the next (or last) junction number. You should also check the number of the nearest marker post.
... that it is illegal for anyone to stop on the hard shoulder to offer assistance to another motorist who has broken down?

Waiting for Help

  • Once you have made a call for assistance, walk back to the car and then wait near your vehicle, away from the carriageway and hard shoulder. If possible, retreat up the motorway embankment to protect yourself from the dangers of passing traffic.
  • Wait for assistance to arrive.
  • If you are on your own, and another vehicle pulls up (other than the breakdown service), get back into your car straight away and lock the passenger door.
  • If they offer to help, ask them to contact the appropriate emergency service if necessary, rather than assist personally.
  • Stay in your car until they have driven away, and then return to your safe waiting place up the embankment or behind a barrier.

Re-Joining the Motorway

  • When your car has been fixed, get back into the vehicle through the left hand passenger doors.
  • As you drive away, stay on the hard shoulder until you have built your speed up sufficiently to match that of passing vehicles. However, you should be aware there may be other vehicles stationary on the hard shoulder.
  • Wait for a long, safe gap in the traffic, indicate and pull into the left hand lane.