What to do if you have a car break down

If your car has a break down it can be hard and often dangerous to stop.

It’s imperative that you 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.

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.

Here are our tips on how to stop safely and call for help.

If you’re on a motorway with a hard shoulder

You must not stop on the hard shoulder unless an emergency forces you to stop. If an emergency occurs pull in 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 that children are kept under control – it is best to retreat up the bank, or behind a barrier if this is possible. Don’t attempt even simple repairs.

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 the Driver Location Signs which will help us pinpoint your location and direction of travel.

LRI sign

However, the fastest and easiest way to report a breakdown is through the new AA App which you can download here. It uses the GPS function on the phone to find your exact location, and 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 Gardaí and tell them if you are a vulnerable motorist.

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.

If you can’t get across to the hard shoulder, do not stop on a running lane – it is extremely dangerous. Switch on your hazard warning lights and do not attempt to place any warning device on the carriageway. Only leave your vehicle when you can safely get clear of the carriageway.

If you have a disability which prevents you from following the above then stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt on, switch on your hazard warning lights and use a mobile phone, if you have one, to contact the emergency services

If you’re on another road

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 you have a reflective jacket, put it on. Keep your sidelights on if it is dark or visibility is poor.

If you have any fear that your vehicle may be struck by other traffic make all your passengers get out of the car and get well away from the traffic. Question whether it is safe for you to fix the car or whether you need professional help.

If it is safe and you have one, put a warning triangle or other permitted warning device on the road at least 45 metres (50 yards) behind your broken down vehicle on the same side of the road. Always take great care when doing this. Remember to retrieve it, with care, when the breakdown is over.

Do not stand (or let anybody else stand), between your vehicle and oncoming traffic. At night or in poor visibility do not stand where you will prevent other road users seeing your lights. Call us on 01 6179104, or contact us via the AA App.

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