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What Should You Do if You Break Down on the Motorway?
30 June 2022

What Should You Do if You Break Down on the Motorway?

Breaking down on the motorway is probably the last place you’d want to break down. But don’t panic, follow these steps or keep them in mind if you do experience a motorway breakdown.

What to do if you break down on a motorway

  • Try to get to a safe place
    If your car is still running, try to get off the motorway at the next available exit. If, however, your car has completely shut down, pull up on the hard shoulder, parking as far over to the left as you can, with your wheels pointing to the left.
  • Turn on your lights & make yourself visible
    When you’ve experienced a breakdown on the motorway, it’s essential to let other road users know by switching on your hazard warning lights. If it’s dark or visibility is low due to fog, turn on your sidelights too. If you have a hi-vis jacket, put this on too.
  • Don’t wait in the car
    Motorways can be dangerous places if you’ve broken down - hundreds of cars are travelling along at exceedingly high speeds. So, it’s best to get out of the car and wait behind the barrier where you’ll be safest. If you have pets in the car you’re travelling with, it’s safest to leave them in the car so they don’t run out onto the motorway. 
  • Call for help
    Look out for an SOS phone box; follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder. The phone is completely free to use and connects you straight to the police. If you find there is no emergency phone nearby then you can use your mobile phone if you have this to hand, and call for a breakdown service. Do not attempt to try and repair your car yourself. 

What to do if you break down on a smart motorway

Smart motorways can be considered slightly safer than normal motorways, as they employ traffic management methods such as using variable speed limits to control the traffic.

Smart motorways also may not have hard shoulders that you can use if you do break down, so if this is the case, follow these steps:
  • Get off the motorway
    Try to get to a service area of leave at the next exit if your car can still be driven. Alternatively, try to find the next Emergency Refuge Area (ERA).
  • Only stop in a ‘live lane’ if there’s no alternative
    If you’re mid-driving, your car breaks down unexpectedly and you can’t get to an exit, keep your seatbelt(s) on and turn on your hazard warning lights. Do not attempt to get out of the vehicle because this isn’t safe. Then immediately call 999 for help.
Who to call depending on where you break down on a smart motorway:
  • If you safely make it to an exit, call for breakdown recovery.
  • If you stop in the ERA, use the emergency phone, which will put you through to the Regional Control Centre for help
  • If you break down in a ‘live lane’, dial 999 immediately.