Written by: Tim Marsh
It happens to all but the luckiest drivers on the road today: at some point, your car breaks down and leaves you stranded on the side of the road. While automotive failure can certainly be stressful, we have 10 tips to help make a breakdown as easy as possible.
1.Get the vehicle out of the roadway.
If a problem arises while driving, steer the car to the side of the road and out of the flow of traffic as soon as it is safe to do so. If possible, try to coast along the road until you are clear of any curves or other road features that may obscure you from the view of other motorists. Take care in getting out of the vehicle – it is best to exit from the side of the car that faces away from traffic, which may be the passenger side door. If you cannot make it out of traffic, remain in the vehicle and activate your emergency flashers to indicate distress.
2.Make your car visible.
When you have brought the car to a stop out of the way of traffic, indicate that you are stopped by using your emergency flashers. Reflective triangles, road flares, and small orange cones can be used to alert other drivers to your location. If you can safely exit the car, raise the hood and hang something white out the window or tie it to a side view mirror to alert other drivers to proceed around you.
3.Call for help.
Most all Australians own a cell phone today – the next step on the list is to call roadside assistance or the police to alert them to your predicament.
4.Assess the situation.
Problems that occur while driving can be generalised into two groups: things you can fix and things you can’t. If you know that you can tackle the issue yourself (if your car has run out of petrol, for example, and there’s a service station nearby), go ahead.
5.If your car has a flat tyre, do not change it unless it can be done safely.
If the flat is one the side of the car away from traffic and you can address it without putting yourself in danger from other vehicles, then do so. However, safety takes precedence over scheduling or other concerns – it is better to wait for a tow if changing the tyre would put you in harm’s way.
6.The side of the road is not a good place to learn how to repair your car.
If you can positively identify the problem, know how to address it, and can do so safely, then go ahead. However, if you are at all unsure about how to fix what’s wrong with your vehicle it’s best to leave the repair to professionals.
7.Be careful with strangers.
While there are plenty of good-hearted people out there whose only intention is to help, the world also has its share of jerks that will take advantage of another person down on his or her luck. If a stranger approaches you while you’re in the car, stay inside and roll down the window enough to tell them that help is on the way. If you feel threatened by a stranger, call the police. This may be a jaded view of those around us, but it is always better to be safe than sorry and risk compounding your problems.
8.Stay with your vehicle.
If you’ve called for roadside assistance, you’ll want to be there when the tow truck arrives. Unless you’re within easy walking distance of a service station or other point of relief, the safest place for you is inside the car. Stay with it until help arrives and always be cautious when exiting the vehicle near traffic.
9.Keep an eye out for uniformed police officers.
All highways and major roads are patrolled regularly. It’s only a matter of time before an official comes to your location to provide assistance.
10. Above all, use common sense.
No two breakdowns are the same – location, time of day, the problem, and other factors make each incident unique. If you are familiar with the area and can find help within a short walk, for example, it’s alright to disregard tip #8. If you keep caution in mind during an automotive breakdown, stay calm, and act rationally, you will be able to keep the problem from becoming any bigger.
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