Between summer vacations, moving, kids heading off to college, and even the upcoming solar eclipse, there is going to be a LOT of traveling this summer. That also means there will be a lot of break downs as well. Breaking down on the side of the road is not only a pain, but it can be quite dangerous as well. Make sure you are following all of the safety protocols you can to keep you and your family safe if your vehicle breaks down.
Stay in your vehicle When you break down, get as far off the road as you safely can. When you come to a stop, put on your flashers and remain buckled and facing forward. Unless there is an emergency where you need to leave your vehicle or you have slow enough traffic so you can pop open your hood and set out flags to warn oncoming traffic, remain seated inside until help arrives. If you do have to leave your vehicle, or if help does arrive and request you leave the vehicle, get as far away from your vehicle as possible. Try to head to a treeline if one is nearby. Movement around your vehicle can distract drivers who may already be distracted by the fact that a vehicle is parked on the side of the road. Those drivers tend to veer towards the distraction while watching, which could lead to a dangerous situation.
Don't try to repair it yourself Even something as simple as a spare tire swap can be far more dangerous on the side of a busy road than if you were to be on a rarely-traveled country road. You may be familiar with minor repairs, but on the side of a busy interstate or highway, you cannot simply concentrate on the repair - you must also be able to calculate everyone driving around you and possibly not paying any attention to you. Paying the fee to have a technician come out and repair the vehicle for you is worth it in the end if it keeps you safe and heading to your destination in one piece.
Do not accept friendly help Well-meaning people will stop and offer to assist, but it is best to politely decline and wait for professional help. While the temptation of cheap or even free assistance is there, this help could lead to a headache later. A person that does not fully know what they are doing or does not have all the proper equipment could end up causing further damage to your vehicle, making repairs more extensive and expensive. Most helpful people are also not experienced working on the side of a busy road, which is a far different setting than in a shop or driveway. The mechanic you or your insurance has called is accustomed to paying attention to the traffic, how close it is, and where he needs to be to stay safe all while still repairing or preparing to tow the vehicle. If a good Samaritan were to be injured while assisting you, you could be held partially liable as well.
Be fully aware of your insurance coverage This is something to call and confirm before you take off on a trip. Always be sure to check to see how your insurance works when it comes to towing and roadside assistance. Some will be willing to pay for either, some may only offer to help with one or the other, and some may only offer partial coverage. Also check to see if you can call your own technician and have the bill reimbursed - which could end up saving you time - or if you need to call the insurance company and have them dispatch a company that is contracted with them.
Pull over in the open While this isn't always an option, you should ALWAYS attempt to park your car in an area that has an open grassy bank on the side. This leaves you room should the worst happen and you get hit. If you are against a guard rail, on a bridge, or under and overpass, your impacted vehicle will either swerve into the concrete or other barrier or into the busy road, both of which are not great options. However, if you are in a grassy area, your vehicle could much more easily follow the line downhill into the grass, avoiding the road and any extra damage to your vehicle. Grassy areas also allow room for you and other travelers in your vehicle to exit the vehicle and get a safe distance from the road if necessary.
If you are planning to travel, make sure to visit your trusted mechanic at least a week prior to your trip. This will give him time to check over your vehicle and make necessary repairs to keep you safe on your journey. Here at PMR, we offer a $35 full-car inspection which will go over your whole vehicle, including tires, suspension, fluid levels, brakes, exhaust, and more. We want to be sure your journey goes as hiccup-free as possible, at least when it comes to travel.