Direct Line magazine

What to do when your car breaks down on the motorway

Updated on: 10 December 2020

An SOS phone on the side of a motorway.

With cars travelling at high speeds, breaking down on a motorway is a dangerous situation to be in. That’s why it’s really important you follow advice designed to keep you and your passengers safe.

The UK government has the following advice.

Your vehicle has a problem on a motorway with no hard shoulder, but can still be driven

  • Move into the left hand lane and put on your hazard lights.

  • Exit at the next junction or services or follow the orange SOS signs to an emergency area and call for help using the free telephone - this will pinpoint your location.

Your vehicle can’t make it off the motorway or to an emergency area

  • Drive your vehicle as close as possible to the left-hand verge, boundary or slip road.

  • If it’s safe for you and your passengers to do so, consider exiting your vehicle via the left-hand doors, and wait behind a safety barrier if there is one.

  • Call 999.

Your car stops without warning in any lane and it’s not safe to get out

  • All passengers should keep their seatbelts on, turn on hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.

  • The lane will be closed and help will be sent.

You breakdown on a motorway with a hard shoulder

  • You can pull into a hard shoulder only in an emergency.

  • If possible, get behind the safety barrier and away from your vehicle and moving traffic.

  • Use the free SOS phone or call Highways England on 0300 123 5000 for help. It’s a good idea to save this number in your phone, just in case you need it one day.

Other advice

  • Although it might be tempting to do so, don’t put up a warning triangle.

  • Emergency help is available where needed, but you should be able to arrange for recovery in the event of a breakdown. Be sure to carry details of your breakdown provider.

  • Many breakdowns can be avoided by following good vehicle maintenance, such as checking your tyres, fuel, oil and water.

Find out more about Green Flag breakdown cover.

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