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Published on February 1st, 2016 | by Stefanie Polsinelli

What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down on the Road.

Preparing your vehicle for cold weather and driving on wintery roads can be a challenge. So we created a Winter Driving Quiz that offers tips on everything from creating the perfect emergency kit to how to drive safely on icy roads.

One of the quiz questions pertains to vehicle breakdowns and we had a huge response on social media. We thought we should expand on this and offer some safety tips should your vehicle break down on the road.

The question in the quiz is: If my car breaks down, I should stay with the vehicle until the tow truck arrives.

The answer is: False. If you are uncertain about your safety and your vehicle may be struck from behind, do not stay in your vehicle. Leave only if there is a safer area to move to, away from the oncoming traffic.

Ultimately, every situation is different and you need to do what is safest for you and the conditions you are in. Here are some general guidelines for highway and most other breakdowns; however, choosing what to do when your vehicle breaks down on the road is a decision that you must make for yourself, taking your safety into account.

  • Pull off the road and onto the shoulder as quickly and safely as possible. Remember to use your signal. If you are pulling onto the left shoulder, ensure you are as far away from moving traffic as possible.
  • If you cannot pull off the road and are in a live lane of traffic, call police. Ensure your seat belt is on and turn on your hazards.
  • Note your vehicle’s location. This will be useful to know when calling for assistance.

If you choose to exit your vehicle:

  • Leave your vehicle only if there is a safe way and safe area to move to, away from traffic.
  • Stay away from oncoming traffic and exit through the side of the vehicle facing away from traffic.
  • Do not stand in front of or behind your vehicle.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • If relying on the help of a friendly motorist, ask for identification before accepting assistance. Write this information down and leave it with another person or in the vehicle explaining where you are going and when you expect to return.

If you choose to stay in your vehicle:

  • Keep the windows and doors locked.
  • Keep your seat belt on for protection in the event that your vehicle is struck by another vehicle.
  • Don’t leave the engine running for extended periods – this could put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If you are threatened by a stranger while waiting in your car, call 911. Honk the horn repeatedly and flash the lights to attract the attention of other motorists.

In an attempt to make the quiz question clearer, we’ve since changed the copy to: If my car breaks down, I should always stay in the vehicle until the tow truck arrives.

For more tips on how to safely handle a vehicle breakdown on the road, click here.

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