Breaking down

Breaking down can be dangerous and frightening – here’s what to do to stay safe.

  • Make sure you’re in a safe place. Move your vehicle off the road if possible, or pull up onto the hard shoulder if you’re on a motorway and can’t turn off at the next exit. Make sure you stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.
  • Put your hazard warning lights on. If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.
  • Stay well away from moving traffic. It’s usually safest to get out of your car (using the doors facing away from passing traffic) and wait behind a barrier. If you’re on a motorway, move up the bank if you can. Leave animals in the car.
  • Wear a reflective jacket if you have one.
  • Don’t put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder if you’re on a motorway – it’s not safe. If you’re on a road and it’s safe, you can put a warning triangle at least 45m (50 yards) behind your vehicle.

Call your recovery company

If you don’t have a mobile, walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway. Follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police.

Remember that the hard shoulder is only for emergencies.

On a smart motorway?

There’s no hard shoulder, so follow these steps instead.

  • Stop at an emergency refuge area (ERA), motorway service area or leave at the next junction.
  • If this isn’t possible, try and get the vehicle off the carriageway.
  • If you have to stop in a traffic lane, turn on your hazard lights as soon as possible.
  • If you’re in the left-hand lane, and it’s safe to do so, get out of the vehicle on the left-hand (passenger) side and wait behind the barrier.
  • If you can’t get out, or you’re in another lane and it’s not safe to leave the vehicle, stay in the car with your seatbelt on and dial 999.
  • If you stop in an ERA, you must use the SOS phone to contact the Regional Control Centre when you stop, and before you leave.

Vulnerable situations

If you have a disability which is stopping you from following these steps, keep your seatbelt on, switch on your hazard warning lights and use your phone to call us or the emergency services.

If you feel at risk from another person, get back into your vehicle using a left-hand door and lock all doors. Leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.

If you can’t get to the hard shoulder, stay in your vehicle unless you can be absolutely sure it’s safe to leave it. Put your hazard lights on, keep your seatbelt on and call the emergency services.