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Summer Safety Tips: What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down

As we discussed previously, with the summer comes an increase in road trips. More road trips lead to an increase in vehicle breakdowns. Preparation is key for a safe trip in your vehicle. However, sometimes no matter how thoroughly you prepare for a safe drive, vehicles can still malfunction. AAA has put together a list of guidelines to ensure that you know what to do should your car break down.

Note the Location of Your Vehicle at the Time of the Breakdown. You should always ensure that you are aware of your surroundings when driving. This is particularly important should your vehicle break down. When you pull over in the event of a vehicle malfunction, note where you are in relation to the nearest exit or cross street, mile marker on the highway, as well as landmarks. This information will likely be important for notifying roadside assistance. If possible, pull over in a well-lit area.

Assess Your Car’s Problem. Be aware of the warning signs your car uses to signal malfunctions. Know the warning signs for steering problems or smoke coming from the hood. Listen for any unusual noises your car might emit. If you have a flat tire, do not panic. In the event of a flat tire, gradually slow down and pull over to the shoulder. If running out of gas is the issue, turn on your hazard lights and steer your vehicle away from traffic and to a safe area. Do not apply the brakes until absolutely necessary.

Pull Over and Off the Road. Generally, you should exit on to the far right shoulder. If you are on the highway, you may consider exiting on the left shoulder if you absolutely must. Be alert and aware of oncoming traffic should you get out of your vehicle. Do not stand directly behind or in front of your vehicle, as other motorist may not be able to see you. If you are unable to pull off the road and your vehicle breaks down, turn on your hazard lights. Do not get out of your car and attempt to push it to get away from traffic. If you cannot get your vehicle away from traffic, or are concerned that your car is in a location where another motorist may hit it, do not remain in your vehicle.

Alert Other Drivers. Make sure that your vehicle is as visible as possible to other drivers. Particularly if your vehicle breaks down on an interstate highway, remember that other drivers may be traveling at high speeds and must be able to see your vehicle from a far distance in order to stop or change lanes. Make sure to turn on emergency flashers, especially at night. Raising the hood of your vehicle will help to alert drivers. Tying a brightly colored scarf to the antenna or door handle can help signal that your vehicle is broken down. Using flares also helps to direct oncoming traffic away, but use common sense. Do not ignite flares if the issue you are experiencing is a fuel leak, or you smell fuel fumes. When using flares, place the first flare or triangle ten feet directly behind the side of the car closest to the road. Place the second 100 feet directly behind the vehicle. Lined up with the middle of the bumper. The third flare should be placed behind the car’s right side.

Notify Others of Your Situation. Once you and your vehicle have settled in a safe location, make sure to notify others of your vehicle breakdown. As mentioned above, note your location and let others know where you are. Use your cell phone to call for help as soon as possible.

Do Not Leave Your Vehicle. Under the majority of circumstances, if you can pull over away from traffic, the safest option is to remain in your vehicle until police or roadside assistance arrives. Keep the windows closed and lock the doors. Do not leave your engine on for extended periods of time, as this could potentially subject you and your passengers to risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Be mindful of your surroundings and ensure you have a flashlight in case you are stranded at night. If your only alternative is to rely on a stranger/good samaritan, ensure that you have their identification information before accepting assistance, and if you leave your vehicle with that person, ensure that another passenger knows where you are going and how to contact you. If you exit your vehicle, ensure that you do so away from the side of oncoming traffic. If help is in safe walking distance, make sure that it is safe to leave passengers or your vehicle, and put a note on your dashboard indicating where you are going for help and when you left.

Know Your Rights and Responsibilities. It is important to understand what services your emergencyroadside assistance and/or insurance policy will cover. Always get a receipt and record of what maintenance was performed to fix your vehicle.

What You Can Expect From Emergency Roadside Service

Roadside technicians should be able to change tires, provide fuel, get a battery started, and employ basic techniques to restart your vehicle without the need to tow. If your vehicle breakdown is due to severe mechanical issues or electrical problems, your car will need to be towed to the nearest service location.