2 December 2021
Three fifths (59%*) of drivers would stand or wait in a dangerous place if they broke down on a motorway according to the AA. That includes standing where a vehicle might be thrown if another hits the back and when occupants are actually standing on the motorway.
The poll of more than 15,000 drivers found that a fifth (22%) of people would stand in one of the most dangerous places on a motorway – diagonally in front of the broken down vehicle. Should another vehicle crash into the broken down car, this is the most likely place the vehicles will fly towards and crush people, even if they are behind the barrier. Around 1% of drivers would wait in the broken down car.
Breaking down on a motorway is a scary experience and drivers can make things worse by waiting in the wrong place.
Fortunately, two fifths (41%) would wait in the safest place which is behind the barrier and well past the boot of the casualty vehicle (Zone 1, see image below). Once over the barrier, people should walk towards the oncoming traffic.
The figures differ slightly should they reach an emergency refuge area on a smart motorway. As the car is in a layby, 2% said they would stay in the vehicle.
Q. Imagine you broke down on a motorway with a continuous hard shoulder. Looking at the image below, please indicate where would you stand while waiting for assistance?
Zone 1: 41%, Zone 2: 34%, Zone 3: 22%, Zone 4: 0.5%, Zone 5: 1%, Zone 6: 0.5%, Don’t know: 1%
Q. Imagine you broke down on a motorway with an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) and you were able to stop in the ERA. Looking at the image below, please indicate where would you stand while waiting for assistance?
Zone 1: 39%, Zone 2: 36%, Zone 3: 21%, Zone 4: 0.5%, Zone 5: 2%, Zone 6: 0.5%, Don’t know: 1%
As drivers prepare themselves for lengthy road trips ahead of the Christmas Getaway, the AA is reminding drivers where to stand should their vehicle break down.
Sean Sidley, AA patrol of the year, said: “Breaking down on a motorway is a scary experience and drivers can make things worse by waiting in the wrong place. Should the car be hit, the force of the collision could prove fatal.
“If you can get out of your vehicle, the safest exit is normally through the passenger doors, get over the barrier, walk past the car boot and towards the oncoming traffic. This limits your contact with other road users. Once there, you should stay in that location until you are instructed otherwise. For those with limited mobility, we advise they remain in the vehicle with their seatbelt and hazard warning lights on**.
“As we head into the depths of winter with more cold, wet and dark conditions there is a temptation to wait in the car. Keeping a coat, hat, gloves, water, high energy snacks and a fluorescent vest in the car for you and your passengers can be a saving grace.
“Most breakdowns can be prevented, so it is important to check your vehicle over before setting off. Making sure you have enough fuel or electric charge in the car, undamaged tyres, along with good oil and coolant levels, will help prevent most faults.”
* AA Yonder Driver Poll, October 2021. 15,097 respondents
** In the images above “Zone 1” is the safest place to stand. More details on what drivers should do if they breakdown on a motorway can be found here.
AA members who breakdown on motorways are given safety advice when they report their breakdown.