I’m sorry to say it, but breakdowns happen to the best of us. When they do occur, however, it seems to catch most people completely off guard, becoming especially daunting if your broken down car is on a highway, in the middle of nowhere, at nighttime, or while you’re completely alone.
It is in these sticky situations that stress kicks in and common sense flies out the window. It’s not uncommon for people to become so disoriented that they let their kids wander around the car or just leave their vehicle at an intersection. The scary thing is, these slip-ups can be seriously dangerous, even fatal, mistakes.
In an ideal world you will have taken all the preparatory steps to avoid a broken down car in the first place, alas sometimes life throws us lemons. When that happens and you find yourself officially broken down, here are 4 tips to get you out of a jam…
1. GET OUT OF THE WAY
Too often in the stress of a breakdown we’ve seen people leave their car at a petrol bowser, overlook pushing their car out of dangerous intersection or (like I mentioned earlier) let their kids wander onto busy roads.
This is why the first step is always to get your car, your passengers and yourself out of the way of potential danger. As soon as it starts to stutter or stall, turn on your hazard lights and move to the side of the road as far left as possible, keeping your wheels turned to the left. If you’re on a highway or a busy street, try and take the next exit and get the car to a quieter street. If you can’t, attempt to move your car to a safe shoulder with a call box.
Worst case scenario, if you’re stuck in the middle of a lane and your car won’t go any further you will have to wait in your car. You’ll get beeped at, but they’ll just have to get over it.
Note: Many people don’t realise that if your tyres are flat you can still drive. The same rule applies: get your car to a safe place.
2. BE VISIBLE
At night, turn on your headlights and interior lights for visibility. If possible, also keep your car running to prevent your lights from draining the battery. If it’s safe, get out of your car and lift the bonnet. This alerts passing patrols, tow truck operators and even other motorists that you’re broken down and you may be lucky enough to have someone stop and help.
3. STAY SAFE
On a busy highway or in busy traffic, don’t get out of your vehicle unless it’s safe to do so from the passenger side. You shouldn’t have to cross any lanes and you should be able to remove yourself from the road and the situation.
If you’re stuck in busy traffic, the safest place is inside your car with your seat-belt on. It’s a sad fact that many people have been killed trying to get out of their cars or attempting to fix a problem on the driver’s side (such as changing a tyre).
The exception to this is when you’re on a bend. An unsuspecting car (or semi) might not be able to stop in time. If this is the case, assess the external situation. Is there a barricade you can stand behind? Is there a good clearance area? If so, get out of the car from the passenger side and get as far away from the traffic as possible.
4. CALL ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE
Call roadside assistance and describe your situation. If you have a flat tyre on the driver’s side and you’re in the line of fast traffic, they won’t attend to your vehicle as it’s considered unsafe. Instead, they’ll call a tow truck to take you somewhere safe to repair the vehicle.
Even if you don’t have roadside assistance at the time of the breakdown, you can generally join on the spot. You will, however, pay a premium for doing this. If your car can’t be restarted on the spot they’ll call a tow truck anyway, so you might want to weigh up whether you pay the premium to join (which should include 12 months of membership), or call a towing company directly.
If you can’t afford roadside assistance and/or don’t have a working phone on you, then look for those call boxes that are on the side of major highways. You’ve probably never noticed them before, and now you’ll start to see them everywhere. If you’ve been lucky enough to get your broken down car to a shoulder with the next call box, this isn’t a problem. If it’s daytime and you can safely walk beside the highway, try and get to the nearest call box on your side of the road. Don’t ever cross the highway, though, it’s far too dangerous.
When it comes to car breakdowns, most people put their head in the sand and assume it just won’t happen to them. However, it does happen, every single day. Luckily, there are plenty of simple things you can do in advance to help you avoid a breakdown – just ask your mechanic at your next service. If your car does break down, remember… get out of the way, be visible, stay safe and call roadside assistance or a tow truck.
If you are stuck and need some mechanical assistance the team at Blue Toro Mobile Mechanics is always happy to help.