When you’ve not been driving for very long, it can be a bit scary and daunting when your car breaks down and you might not know what to do. This is why we’ve put together some useful advice on what steps to take when you suffer a breakdown, so you can be completely prepared when travelling to and from university.
Stop as soon as possible
Should your car begin to sound as though the engine is suffering or your warning lights come on, make sure you stop as soon as possible. It is far safer to be able to pull over on the side of a road, then carry on till it’s too late and breakdown in the middle of moving traffic.
If you’ve been able to pull over, make sure you park as far left as possible so as to avoid oncoming traffic. It is also a good idea to turn your wheels to the left, and to exit on the passenger side, not the driver’s, particularly if it is a busy road.
Make yourself visible
Wherever you have stopped, it is important to make sure yourself as visible as possible; put your hazard lights on and, if it is dark, your sidelights too. If you’ve stopped in the middle of the road, you should switch your interior lights on so it is easier for other cars to see you.
Should you have a high-visibility jacket, make sure you slip this on, so you can be seen as you exit the car – which you must do if you’re managed to pull over on the side.
If you’ve broken down on a small road, put your warning triangle – should you have one – about 50 yards in front of the car in the way of moving traffic, making sure to be careful yourself when doing this. However, if you’re on a motorway, don’t use your warning triangle, as this can confuse oncoming vehicles and put yourself at danger.
Get out of the car
Make sure you get out of the car as soon as possible, and put yourself and any other passengers far out of the way of the vehicle. Go behind a barrier if there is one or try to climb up the bank if you’re on a motorway; the further away from the car you are, the better, as one of the biggest dangers to breakdown drivers is other vehicles crashing into them. Therefore, it is also wise to not stand in front of the car.
The only incidence where you might stay in the vehicle is if you think you are in danger, such as if it is night-time and you’re in an unsafe area and you feel vulnerable. However, in this circumstance, make sure you call the emergency services to let them know your whereabouts.
Should you be travelling with animals, keep these secure in the car, as they can cause serious accidents if they are let loose on the road!
Call your breakdown cover
As soon as you are in a safe position, you can call your breakdown service. Lots of companies these days have their own mobile phone apps. These often allow you to input your exact location and they can then track your whereabouts through their GPS system.
If you don’t have an app, then try to be as specific as possible so they can easily find you on the road. Should you not have breakdown cover and you’ve stopped on a motorway, call the Highways Agency as soon as possible. They may send someone from the nearest garage to come and get you; however, you should be prepared for a costly bill, something that might tempt you to getting breakdown cover in the future.
Students who aren’t sure if they have breakdown cover should call their insurance providers, as many policies include this as part of their package, and you don’t want to incur any unnecessary costs that you can avoid.
If you don’t have a mobile (although most students these days will have at least one!) or yours has run out of battery, you can walk to the nearest emergency phone if you’re on the motorway. These will be marked by arrows on the hard shoulder. Be careful when you go to find these though, as you don’t want to put yourself in any danger when walking along the hard shoulder next to extremely fast traffic!
Never attempt to fix it yourself
The golden rule when you’ve suffered a breakdown is to not attempt to fix the problem yourself. You might consider yourself a budding mechanic, but trying to repair the vehicle can put you and other passengers in danger. For a start, if you need to do any work on the right-hand side of the car (such as change a wheel), you will be putting yourself closer to oncoming traffic.
Secondly, you might in fact make the problem worse by not doing the job properly, and find yourself suffer a more serious breakdown further down the road. It could be harder to get assistance and a phone signal here, and as it’ll be later in the day, it may be a lot darker.
By knowing these rules when it comes to a breakdown, you should feel confident should something serious happen to your vehicle. That way, you can have fun driving and enjoy the little bit of freedom that comes with having a car while studying at a UK university.
Photo credit: smartphotostock.com
Natasha Al-Atassi is a student and property journalist and avid wedding blogger. She contributes to a number of popular blogs including Vita Student as well as answering questions on popular student forums.