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Why is it dangerous to stay in your car when you break down?

Bradley Jando | Thursday 11th March 2021 9:33am

Broken down car with a warning triangle

A breakdown at any time is a surefire way to spoil a day Ė not only do you have the sudden expense of repairs, but you may also have to wait hours for roadside assistance.

But did you know that itís actually dangerous to stay inside your car when you break down? Itís not what you want to hear on an icy winter night, but it could be the information that keeps you and your passengers safe. Read on for some quick tips on staying safe in a breakdown.

1. Try to get your car off the road

If possible, try to get your car into a hard shoulder or on a safe verge off the road. Put on your hazard lights and, if itís dark, leave your sidelights on for extra visibility. At this point, you may feel like the most sensible thing to do is to wait in the relative warmth of your car, but you need to remember that your car is now a road collision hazard.

While it may be less of a hazard when youíre parked on a wide hard shoulder, compared to on a single-lane country road, you could still be at serious risk of a collision. This is essentially why you should never stay inside your car during a breakdown.

Keep awareness of oncoming traffic at all times. In some motorway situations, it likely wonít be safe to leave the car by the driverís door, so instead you could try to exit your vehicle from the passenger door.

2. Stand away from your vehicle

During a breakdown, you should aim to make your car as visible as possible, but you should also make yourself as visible as possible. Considering your car is now a collision risk, standing near it increases the risk of a secondary impact. More specifically: if somebody hits your car, thereís a chance that your car (or parts of it) could then hit you.

As such, you need to assess where a collision risk is most likely to come from.

On a motorway, itís most likely to be cars coming from behind you that collide with yours. After all, traffic can only go one way, and thereís very little chance that a car in an opposite-direction lane would be able to cause you damage.

You need to make yourself visible within this risk zone, as well as trying to get as far from oncoming traffic as possible. If thereís a bank or a barrier then move over it and up as far as possible away from the road, and stay upstream of the oncoming traffic.

On a country road, thereís a risk of a collision from both lanes, so stand as far off the road as possible. Either way, be sure to stay alert.

3. Call for breakdown assistance

When youíre in a position of safety, itís important to call for assistance. If youíre on a motorway and you donít have your mobile phone, you can walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway. The arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder can guide you in the direction of the nearest phone. Just make sure you stay away from the active lanes.

If youíre unsure of your exact location, using the app what3words can help you to be easily found by breakdown assistance or emergency services.

Want to help avoid a breakdown?

Regular servicing at your local Kwik Fit centre is a great way to avoid breakdowns. And, while a breakdown can happen on the most well-serviced vehicle, it dramatically reduces the chances of being caught short when youíre least expecting it.

For service you can rely on, contact your local Kwik Fit centre today.




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