By Chuck Mai, AAA
With more than 125 million vehicles on the roadway and Americans relying on their cars for nearly every part of their life, one of the most stressful things a motorist can encounter is a sudden breakdown. In 2012, AAA received more than 28 million roadside assistance calls. While 58 percent of those breakdowns could be resolved at the roadside by AAA technicians, nearly 12 million vehicles needed to be towed to a local repair shop for further help.
What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down on a Roadway
If the car is clearly experiencing a problem but can still be driven a short distance, drive to a safe location such as a parking lot. If the vehicle stops running but still has coasting momentum, guide it to the far right shoulder as far off the road as possible while remaining on level ground. Turn on the emergency flashers to alert other motorists.
If the car cannot get completely off the roadway, switch on the safety/emergency flashers and consider leaving the vehicle and moving to a safer location. Occupants should not remain in a vehicle if there is a possibility it may be struck by other traffic. For the same reason, it is generally not a good idea to attempt to push a disabled car off the road.
Drivers and passengers should exit a broken down car on the side away from traffic if at all possible. Use extreme caution and watch for oncoming vehicles, especially at night or in bad weather when visibility is limited. While waiting for help, never stand directly behind or in front of the disabled vehicle.
In addition to turning on a vehicle’s emergency flashers, drivers can signal other motorists that they have a problem by raising the car hood, tying a brightly colored handkerchief or scarf to the antenna or door handle, or setting out flares, warning triangles or emergency beacons. These signals can help other drivers recognize there is a problem and hopefully prompt them to slow down, move over to allow more room and proceed with caution as they pass.
Once the driver and passengers are in a safe location, request assistance from a roadside assistance provider. Make note of surroundings, landmarks, buildings or road signs to help relay your location. This is why as you are traveling Interstates, always keep track of where you are by paying attention to mile marker numbers.