By Justin Stoltzfus
What to Do if Your Car Breaks Down on the Highway
It can happen to anyone. You're driving along the road, when something happens unexpectedly and your car breaks down. You may lose power to the vehicle, hear a loud sound as some part breaks, or your tire blows out and you struggle to control the car. No matter what causes your car to break down on the highway, it's a scary experience, but one that you should be prepared for. Follow these roadside safety tips if you're ever in this type of emergency:

  • Slow down. If you feel a change in your vehicle's performance that indicates you may break down, start to decrease your speed, but don't slam on the brakes. When faced with a breakdown, many people react impulsively and come to a sharp halt on a busy road, which can cause dangerous collisions. Instead, slowly lift off of the gas pedal and use calm, controlled braking to slow down gradually.
  • Use your indicators. It's important to use your four-way emergency lights to indicate to other drivers from the very first sign of trouble that you're slowing down and moving off the road. As you begin to move off the road, use your turn signals and mirrors so you can safely angle onto the shoulder. Be sure to get as far off the road as possible.
  • Be seen. Once you've safely exited the road, it's also crucial to mark your car the right way. Any vehicle pulled off to the side of the road near traffic needs lighting, reflectors or other gear to warn oncoming traffic. Many motorists recognize an open car hood or a white rag as an indicator that the vehicle is broken down and can't move. It's a good idea to keep an roadside emergency kit in your car that includes reflective triangles that can be used to warn oncoming traffic, particularly at nighttime when visibility is worse.
  • Call for help. Calling police or first-responders as quickly as possible can also limit your risk; once they arrive they have resources for ensuring traffic safety. Give responders all appropriate information about your location and what the scene around you looks like to allow them to do their jobs as well as possible.
  • Stay out of the road. It may seem easy to go for your trunk, jack up a flat or start walking down the road for help, but even when you are safely in the shoulder, you can still be at risk for a collision. If getting out of your car is necessary, always step around the vehicle on the side away from traffic. Never stand by the vehicle in the roadway. If you must walk for help, stay as far off of the road as possible and use any warning light or reflectors that are handy.
Remembering these roadside safety tips can help keep you and your passengers safe after a vehicle breakdown while you wait for help.


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