When you formulate or update your fleet safety policy, don’t forget to address how drivers should respond after a highway breakdown. Of course, different circumstances call for different responses, but familiarity with general guidelines will help drivers make sound decisions during a particularly stressful time. In the great majority of cases, it’s safest to remain in the vehicle until help arrives.
Here are six tips from AAA you might want to pass along to your drivers:
- Note your vehicle’s location. When you first encounter a problem while driving, make sure you’re aware of your general location. Look for landmarks, the nearest exit number or street name, the nearest emergency call box or rest area, for example.
- Assess your vehicle’s operating problem. What warning signs have you seen, heard or felt?
- Pull off the road and get as far from traffic as possible. If you get out of your vehicle, show extreme caution and watch for oncoming traffic – especially at night or in bad weather. Never stand behind or directly in front of your vehicle. If you cannot pull off the road because your vehicle has lost all power and is inoperable, switch on safety/emergency flashers immediately. Don’t risk injury by attempting to push the vehicle to a safe location. If you cannot get the vehicle to a location away from traffic and believe your safety is at risk, then don’t stay in the vehicle. But generally, it’s safest to stay in the vehicle.
- Alert other motorists. Take steps to ensure your vehicle is visible to other drivers. Turn on the emergency flashers. If it’s safe to do so, place flares or warning triangles to direct oncoming traffic away from your vehicle and -- if possible -- tie a bright handkerchief or scarf to an antenna or door handle. But if you smell or notice any sign of a fuel leak, don’t ignite the flares or use anything with a flame. Extinguish any lighted cigarettes.
- Communicate your situation. Once you and your passengers are in a safe location, notify others of your vehicle breakdown. If you have a cell phone, make the call from inside your vehicle – assuming it’s safely away from traffic. Otherwise, place the call at a safe distance from the vehicle and traffic.
- Remain with your vehicle. Under most circumstances, if you’re able to pull away from traffic and stop safely on the shoulder, it’s best to remain in your vehicle until law enforcement or an emergency roadside assistance provider arrives. But if you do decide to exit the vehicle, make sure you can do so safely. In most cases, the passenger side of the vehicle permits greater distance from oncoming traffic. If you’re convinced help is within walking distance, think carefully about whether it’s safe to leave the vehicle and passengers for a brief period of time. Is your planned route really safe for pedestrians? If you stay inside the vehicle, keep the windows nearly closed and the doors locked. Don’t lower the windows or open doors to strangers. If a stranger offers help, ask the person to call for emergency road service.
Click on the photo or link above to watch a video, produced by WTVR CBS 6 News, in which Martha Meade of AAA Mid-Atlantic offers advice on what to do if your vehicle breaks down on the highway.