Vehicle breakdowns are bad enough without the added stress of being unsure what to do if you experience one. Whether your vehicle is having a mechanical failure, an overheated engine or a flat tire, it’s important to know what to do. Hopefully, it never happens, but if it does, having a reaction plan and knowing how to stay safe are vital.
Keeping these do’s and don’ts in mind can help keep you and other motorists safer when forced to the side of the road with a vehicle breakdown.
If you experience vehicle problems while driving, your first priority is to pull off to a safe location away from the flow of traffic.
- Take your foot off the gas pedal.
- Do not brake suddenly.
- Ideally, aim for the right shoulder of the road — pulling into the left-hand shoulder is a last resort.
- Be sure to park with your wheels turned to the right so that if your vehicle is struck from behind, your vehicle will not cross the lane into moving traffic. Once parked, stay inside your vehicle with your seat belt on, whenever possible. If you must exit the vehicle, always do so from the right side to avoid traffic.
Once off the road, make your vehicle visible.
- Use your hazard lights — this warns other drivers that something is wrong.
- If it is dark, also turn on the interior dome light.
Triple-check before getting out of the vehicle.
- Make sure it is safe to get out, especially on a busy highway. If you feel it would be safer in the vehicle, go with your instincts and stay inside with your seat belt on.
- If you made it to the right-hand side of the road, get out through the passenger-side door.
- If you judge it safe to do so, put flares or reflective triangles behind your vehicle as follows: one near your vehicle, usually about 10 feet behind it, and the other one farther away.
If your engine is smoking or you see flames, get out of your vehicle as quickly as you can.