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Breaking down on the motorway

Breaking down on the motorway

Breaking down is stressful, especially when traffic is heavy and you’re on the motorway. Should you be unfortunate enough to have this happen to you it’s important that you remain composed and consider safety to be paramount. To help with this you might consider having a plan in place and here are some tips to get you started.

Safe space

If you have an inkling that your car is about to break down then try to safely manoeuvre to the inside lane just in case. You might suspect your car is in trouble if smoke is coming from the engine, you feel strange vibrations or hear unusual sounds. It’s important to remain calm and avoid slamming the breaks whilst switching on your hazard lights. Should your car break down, you should hopefully be able to pull into the hard shoulder and come to a gentle stop.

From this moment onwards, be hyper-vigilant of your surroundings and encourage passengers to do the same. Be especially mindful of children and pets.

Exit the vehicle

If you’re now on the hard shoulder you and your passengers should seek somewhere safe to await breakdown services. As your car is at risk from other vehicles, this should be as far away from the motorway as you can get, within reason and preferably behind a safety rail. Leaving the hazard lights on, everyone in the vehicle should exit via the passenger side and move directly to the identified safe space. If you have pets with you let them remain in the car with the window open enough for ventilation. If you failed to reach the hard shoulder then it is not safe to leave your vehicle and you should keep your seat belt on and dial 999 immediately. This also applies if you are physically unable to leave the vehicle for any reason.

Stay visible

If you haven’t already, you might want to consider investing in some useful items such as a high visibility jacket, warm waterproof clothing, a torch and a breakdown triangle sign. Immediately upon exiting the vehicle and before moving to the safe area, adorn what you need but do not place a breakdown sign on a motorway if you have one – These are only safe for road use. Be aware the hard shoulder may also serve as a bus lane between 7am and 7pm on the Belfast M1 and M2.

Call for help

When safe to do so, call a breakdown service and await rescue. If you are a subscribing member to a service you should have their number saved in your contact list already. If you are not, you can find a service provider that operates in your area with a quick Google search and pull up their emergency telephone line. The RAC and AA are more common roadside assistance providers and in many cases can repair the vehicle there and then. Be aware that you will have to pay for these services should you not have an existing policy. If you don’t have a mobile phone to hand you will find orange boxes containing SOS phones every mile down the motorway that will allow you to contact the local traffic control authority.


You can only do so much to remain safe when facing a breakdown on the motorway and ultimately you must rely on the vigilance of other road users too. If you become injured during a break down because of another driver we might be able to help. Contact us today for a free no obligation discussion with a solicitor.  

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Gavin's Car Accident Settles for £8,000 (Belfast)

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Gavin's Car Accident Settles for £8,000 (Belfast)
Laura's Trip Claim Settles for £40,705 (at sea)
John's Car Crash Claim Settles for £16,250 (Antrim)

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