6 tips to avoid a freeway breakdown

2014-01-08 08:23

The British Highways Agency plans to scrap portions of highway hard shoulders, causing concern regarding vehicle breakdowns. Imagine if Sanral implemented a similar plan in SA? What's more, we have 15 tips to follow in the event of a breakdown.

The British Highways Agency plans to scrap portions of highway hard shoulders.

Road safety and breakdown cover specialist, GEM Motoring Assist, has concerns regarding vehicle safety, as the Highway Agency plans to remove the hard shoulder on some of Britain's busiest roads, including the M25, M1 and M6.


GEM CEO David Williams said: “The idea behind these plans is to keep roads flowing more freely to ease congestion, which is great in principle but there are obvious and worrying concerns.”

“Since 2005, an increasing number of UK motorways have been re-classified as ‘Smart Motorways’, which use what was previously the hard shoulder as a traffic lane to assist traffic flow during certain times of the day.

“Unfortunately, when the system is in operation, a vehicle breaking down no longer has an immediate traffic-free area in which to stop.  Ideally the driver will be able to reach one of the many refuge areas built into the system at frequent intervals. 

“However, this is not always possible and if unlucky, a driver may find it necessary to stop in the middle of the traffic flow which is likely to be unnerving even for an experienced drivers.”

Imagine if Sanral implemented the same plan on SA’s roads? With thousands killed on our roads each year, removing the shoulder could have disastrous effects.


Williams said: “On the plus side, Smart Motorways are constantly monitored, so if a driver doesn’t make it to a refuge area, help will arrive very quickly.”

“Of course prevention is always the best policy, and whilst not all breakdowns can be avoided, drivers can reduce the risk. 

“We always recommend drivers  carry out checks before setting off but it’s particularly important if they are going on long journeys and especially if they know they will be driving on motorways.  It’s also important to be prepared if the worst should happen.” 

Drivers should be aware that different rules apply when breaking down on a motorway as opposed to other roads.

6 tips to prevent a breakdown:

1 Before setting off on any long journey, check your tyres, battery, oil level, coolant level, windscreen (for chips or cracks), lights, fuel and mirrors.
2 Be aware of any strange noises, vibrations or smells emanating from your car.
3 Make sure you have the manufacturer’s handbook for your vehicle and don’t ignore warning lights.
4 Make sure you have a tow rope or hitch, first aid kit, torch, reflective jacket, blanket and spare bulbs .
5 Check that you have an up-to-date breakdown membership and have your card/policy number handy.
6 Charge your cellphone before you leave and keep a charger with you.

Hopefully good planning will help ensure that nothing goes wrong but in case it does, here are some useful guidelines to follow in the event of a vehicle breakdown:

7 Breaking down on the side of the road can be extremely hazardous. Consider you own safety first – if possible move your vehicle to the side of the road.
8 Switch on your hazard lights and pull onto the hard shoulder as far as possible and turn your wheels away from the road.  Do not attempt to put a warning triangle on highway.
9 Ideally, all passengers should get out of the vehicle should wait as far away from the road as possible.
10 For your own safety you should wear a fluorescent reflective jacket.
12 Call for assistance
13 Do not try to cross the highway
 14 You must leave animals in the vehicle or, in an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge
 15 Do not attempt even simple repairs and do not leave the bonnet open.