On the Hard Shoulder

How to stop safely on the motorway

Breakdown repair cover - there are better ways to spend £500 than on car repairs...

Motorway hard shoulders are for emergency use only and you should only stop there if it is a real emergency and you have no other choice. Try to drive to a safer place off the motorway if you can rather than stopping on the hard shoulder.

You must not stop on the hard shoulder to:

  • go to the toilet
  • use a mobile phone
  • check a route or map

What to do if an emergency forces you to stop

  • Use the hard shoulder as a deceleration lane before coming to a halt.
  • Watch out for debris on the hard shoulder that could damage your vehicle.
  • Pull over to the left as far as you can and turn your front wheels towards the nearside verge.
  • Turn on your hazard lights.
  • Turn on sidelights when visibility is poor.
  • Leave the vehicle via the passenger doors and move as far away from the traffic as you can.
  • Attempting to repair your vehicle on a hard shoulder is highly dangerous, particularly on the side nearest the traffic. Use the motorway telephone to get professional help.

How to use telephones

Once you're in a safe place use a mobile phone to call the AA, making sure you can describe your location – look out for the new Driver Location Signs which will help us pinpoint your location and direction of travel, or there are reference numbers on all telephones and marker posts.

If you don't have a mobile, walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway – You must never attempt to cross 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/Highways Agency.

How to wait for assistance

  • The safest place to wait for help is behind the crash barrier if there is one. If not, wait next to your vehicle, as far up the bank or verge as possible.
  • If this is not possible, or you feel threatened, wait in the front passenger seat of your car with the doors locked, keeping a watch on the oncoming traffic. When you feel it is safe to do so, return to the safe place on the bank near your vehicle. There is a perception that a 'lone female' is at risk of being attacked on a motorway hard shoulder. Research shows that the risk of being hit by another vehicle is much greater.
  • Once your vehicle is repaired, return to the motorway using the hard shoulder as an acceleration lane. Merge with the lane when you have reached a similar speed and have an appropriate gap.

If you have a disability which prevents you from following the above advice you should:

  • Stay in your vehicle.
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights.
  • If you have a car or mobile telephone, contact the emergency services and be prepared to advise them of your location.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


30 June 2009