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It’s important to check your vehicle regularly to make sure it’s in tip-top shape to avoid breaking down. If you do find yourself broken down on a motorway, we have some advice to keep you safe.
Motorways are the safest roads in the country but can be dangerous if you break down. Follow these steps if you break down and while you wait to be rescued.
- On a motorway with a hard shoulder
- On a smart motorway (no hard shoulder)
- What to do if you break down anywhere else
- How to rejoin a motorway
What to do if you breakdown on a motorway
The most important thing is to get to a safe place and call for help. Here’s what to do:
1. Try to get off the motorway
- It’s best to try to turn off the motorway at the next exit.
- If you can't, pull up onto the hard shoulder.
- Make sure you stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.
2. Turn on your lights
- Turn on your hazard warning lights.
- If it’s dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.
3. Wait in a safe place
- It’s usually safest to get out of your car (using the doors facing away from passing traffic) and wait behind a barrier.
- Leave any animals in the car.
- Move up the bank if you can.
- Stay upstream of the oncoming traffic.
4. Make yourself visible
- Put on a high-vis jacket if you have one
- In the event of a motorway breakdown, call us on 03330 046 046 to get help. You can also get instant breakdown cover if you aren't a member with us by calling the same number.
- It’s not safe to try repair - no matter how simple - if you’re on a motorway.
- If you don’t have a mobile phone, walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway. Follow the arrows on the posts set behind the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police or National Highways.
We provide 24/7 roadside assistance.
Things not to do:
- Don’t put yourself in danger by attempting even simple repairs.
- Don’t try to use a warning triangle - it’s not safe on a motorway.
- Don’t take your pets out of the car as they could run out into the road.
- Don’t stand next to your car while you wait, or stand between your car and oncoming traffic.
- Don’t stand downstream of your car and oncoming traffic, even if you’re behind the barrier.
You can also find information about what to do if you break down in Highway Code rules 274 to 287.
What to do if you break down on a smart motorway
A smart motorway is a motorway that uses different methods to manage the flow of traffic. If you break down on a smart motorway, there might not be a hard shoulder. If there’s no hard shoulder on the motorway, follow these steps instead.
Find out more about the hard shoulder on motorways.
1. Get to an emergency area (EA)
- If your car can still be driven, get to a service area or leave at the next junction.
- If you can’t, aim for the next emergency area.
2. If you break down in a live lane, then:
- Try to get the vehicle into the leftmost lane and as far off the carriageway as possible.
- Turn on your hazard lights as soon as possible.
- If you’re in the left-hand lane and it’s safe to do so, get out of the vehicle on the left-hand (passenger) side and wait behind the barrier. Stay upstream of oncoming traffic.
- If you can’t get out, or you’re in another live lane and it’s not safe to leave the vehicle, stay in the car with your seat belt on and dial 999.
3. Call for help
- If you’ve managed to get off at an exit, call us on 03330 046 046
- If you stop in an EA, you must use the SOS phone to contact the Regional Control Centre. They’ll then contact us.
- If you’re in a live lane, call 999.
How to rejoin the motorway
After your vehicle’s been fixed, you’ll need to carefully rejoin the motorway.
If you’re on the hard shoulder:
- Build up speed before you rejoin the carriageway and watch for a safe gap in the traffic.
- Be aware that other vehicles may be stationary on the hard shoulder.
If you’re in an emergency area:
- Once your vehicle is fixed, we'll contact the Regional Control Centre on the SOS phone before leaving, so the lane can be closed for you.
- The lane needs to be closed because there isn’t enough space to build up speed in an EA before rejoining the motorway.
- Never try to leave an EA unless National Highways has said it’s safe to.
What to do if you have a disability
- Stay in your vehicle, and put your car’s hazard lights on so your vehicle is visible to passing motorists.
- Call 999, and be sure to tell the operator that you have a disability or that you are a vulnerable person.
- You can purchase a ‘Hidden Disabilities Sunflower’ sticker for your car, which is s a globally recognised symbol for non-visible disabilities, also known as hidden disabilities or invisible disabilities.
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Find out whether people know the correct place to stand if they break down on a motorway.
Published: 15 June 2020 | Updated: 21 July 2023 | Author: The AA