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Motorway Breakdowns


Breakdowns are an inconvenience at the best of times, but they can also throw you into a state of panic – especially if you’re stopped on a busy motorway. Recently an AA Member was forced to stop on the hard shoulder of a busy midlands motorway, one of the most dangerous spots to have a breakdown.

Would you know what to do in the event of a motorway breakdown? Follow our simple guide to ensure that you and your passengers remain safe while roadside.

Where to stop and what to do
Motorway hard shoulders are for emergency use only. You should only stop if it is a real emergency and you have no other choice. It's best to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway if you can rather than stopping on the hard shoulder.

You must not stop on the hard shoulder to:

  • go to the toilet
  • use a mobile phone
  • check a route or map

What to do if a breakdown/other emergency forces you to stop
Get your vehicle off the road if possible and warn other traffic by using your hazard warning lights, particularly if your vehicle is causing an obstruction.

If an emergency forces you to stop:

  • pull on to the hard shoulder and stop as far to the left as possible with the wheels turned to the left
  • leave your sidelights on and turn on the hazard warning lights
  • get out of the vehicle by the left-hand door and make sure that all your passengers do the same
  • leave animals in the vehicle or in an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge
  • if you have reflective jackets in the vehicle wear them – do not use a warning triangle on the hard shoulder
  • make sure that passengers keep away from the carriageway and hard shoulder and children are kept under control 
  • don't attempt even simple repairs

If you cannot get your vehicle onto the hard shoulder

  • Don’t attempt to place any warning device on the carriageway
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights
  • Leave your vehicle only when you can safely get clear of the carriageway

If you have a disability which prevents you from following the advice above

  • Stay in your vehicle
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights
  • If you have a car or mobile telephone, contact the emergency services and be prepared to advise them of your location

Calling for help
Once in a safe place use a mobile phone to call the AA, making sure you can describe your location – look out for a Location Reference Indicator sign which will help us pinpoint your location and direction of travel, or there are reference numbers on all telephones and marker posts.

LRI sign

If you have a smart phone you can download the AA App, which uses the GPS function on the phone to find your exact location. With the simple touch of an icon, both the call and the location are transferred to the AA Rescue Centre.

If you don't have a mobile walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway – never attempt to cross the carriageway. Give full details to the police and tell them if you are a vulnerable motorist, such as a woman travelling alone.

Rejoining the carriageway
Build up speed on the hard shoulder and watch for a safe gap in the traffic before rejoining the carriageway. Be aware that other vehicles may be stationary on the hard shoulder.

Breakdowns Abroad

If you're driving abroad this summer remember that breakdowns aren't cheap. It's well worth protecting yourself and your wallet by taking out European Breakdown Cover.


Image: andrijibulba