Breakdown Safety

Breaking down wastes time and money, but more crucially, it results in 250 people being killed or seriously injured on the hard shoulder every year

It’s vital that you know what to do in the event of a breakdown to help keep both you and other road users safe, and to help get your vehicle recovered as quickly as possible.


Avoid breaking down

  • The majority of breakdowns that do occur are due to poor vehicle maintenance and therefore can be avoided
  • Work with your employer to ensure your vehicle is regularly serviced and checked, including wipers, tyres and fluid levels
  • Report faults immediately
  • Ensure you understand your vehicle warning lights


Be prepared

  • Carry a charged mobile phone (switched off and out of reach while driving)
  • Carry an emergency kit, including warm and high visibility clothing, a torch, water and a reflective triangle
  • Ask your employer to confirm what, if anything, is provided by them


General breakdown procedures

  • If possible, avoid stopping in dangerous places such as roundabouts and corners, and don’t park up on pavements
  • Switch on your hazard lights
  • If it is safe to do so, drop your speed, continue driving and try to pull off the road completely, or onto a straight section of road
  • If you have to stop on a road, display your emergency triangle at least 45 metres behind your vehicle (don’t do this on a motorway)
  • If the problem affects your control of the vehicle (for example due to a tyre blow-out, see below), avoid braking severely, try to keep in a straight line holding the steering wheel firmly and steer gently to the side of the road as you slow down
  • Do not attempt to fix your vehicle yourself by the roadside. Call your employer’s designated breakdown service
  • Switch off your engine and wait in a safe place, away from traffic

Motorway breakdown procedures

If your vehicle develops a problem on the motorway:

  • Leave at the next exit if possible and stop at the next service area
  • If you must stop immediately, pull onto the hard shoulder and stop with wheels turned to the left, away from traffic
  • Park as close to the left as possible and try to stop near an emergency phone
  • Put on your hazard lights and turn on side lights in poor visibility
  • DO NOT use your warning triangle on the hard shoulder
  • NEVER attempt repairs yourself


Tyre blow-out

Tyre failures can make steering difficult, especially if it’s the front. Stop as soon as possible to avoid further damage and leaving debris on the road.

  • Be aware of anything on your nearside and signal to move over to the left
  • Keep a firm hold on the steering wheel
  • Steadily steer the vehicle to the left (hard shoulder on the motorway)
  • Reduce speed and gradually bring the vehicle to a stop


Calling for help

  • If possible, use the nearest emergency phone
  • On motorways, blue and white marker posts show the direction of the nearest phone
  • The phones connect directly to the police control centre and are numbered so that you can be easily located
  • If using your mobile phone, refer to the new blue rectangular Driver Location Signs, which detail the road number (e.g. M1), direction of travel and precise location


Waiting for help

If you must stop on the hard shoulder:

  • ALWAYS get out of the vehicle
  • Make sure you and all passengers exit the vehicle on the left-hand side
  • Walk off the road – up the embankment if there is one, or climb over the crash barrier into a field if possible
  • NEVER try to cross lanes to the other side of a motorway.