For the vast majority of drivers it’s simply a matter of time before they get a flat tire or experience some other type of breakdown on the highway – even in a well-maintained car. And according to AAA, nearly 600 people die every year as pedestrians on American interstates, so even something relatively minor like running out of gas can put your personal safety at risk.
With that in mind, remember these safety tips if you suddenly find yourself stranded on the side of the road.
- Remain cool, calm and collected. Panicking could cause you to make rash decisions and you should be carefully thinking through your actions.
- Get your vehicle out of the active lane of travel as quickly and safely as possible. Pull over to the shoulder until you’re safely away from curves in the road behind you.
- Remember to switch on the emergency/safety flashers. Hazard lights are critical because they act as a warning sign for other drivers.
- Never assume that other drivers can see you. Make sure your vehicle is visible and conspicuous as possible. Raise your hood or tie something white to the window, this way law enforcement officers know you need help.
- It’s a good idea to keep a flashlight in your car in case you break down at night, along with a first aid kit to treat any minor injuries.
- Unless there’s smoke or fire, stay inside your vehicle. You never want to try crossing multiple lanes of a high-speed highway on foot. Remember to keep your seatbelt fastened and your doors locked while you’re waiting on help.
- If you absolutely must walk for help, stay on the left-hand shoulder facing traffic. While this won’t allow drivers to see you any easier, this will allow you to react if they get too close for comfort.
- If it is safe to get out of your car, place a hazard triangle or flare about 50 feet behind your car to give other drivers more warning.
- Stay aware of your surroundings and know where you are in relation to an exit, mile marker, or cross street.
- If you break down somewhere other than the interstate, remember you will likely be dealing with smaller shoulders and decreased visibility.
- When you’re traveling, keep your cell phone fully charged. That way you’ll have plenty of battery to call for assistance or a tow truck. It’s also a good idea to have roadside assistance programmed into your phone.
- If a stranger stops and offers help, open the window slightly to talk but don’t open the doors.
Proper maintenance is another critical component to ensure your vehicle operates at peak performance.
- Get in the habit of conducting periodic safety checks on your tires, lights, belts, hoses, fluids, and windshield wipers.
- Make sure you read your owner’s manual to clearly understand what any dash lights and warning signals mean.