Last week I broke down on the side of a busy ‘A’ road and I have to admit it was one of the scariest experiences of my life as the car literally shook as lorries thundered past. I am just thankful that my common sense kicked in and I got the kids out of the car and put them high up on the bank, out-of-the-way of danger as I later found out from a police officer that hundreds of people die each year by staying in their car and it getting hit.
After posting about my car breaking down I had lots of comments with people saying that they would not know what to do if it happened to them, so here is my advice:
- Before you go anywhere in your car, ensure your breakdown cover telephone number is in your car, stored in your phone, or the app is installed on your phone.
- Keep any emergency equipment on the passenger side of the car e.g blankets, first aid kit, telephone numbers as it is easier to get to.
- Know where your spare tyre and tow bar are kept.
- If you don’t manage to breakdown somewhere safe, like a lay-by, put your hazard lights on, get onto the hard shoulder a safely as possible and get you and your passengers out and away from the car using the passenger side, even in bad weather and get behind the barrier or retreat up the bank.
- Pay attention to road signs as you drive so you know roughly where you are. I had ‘no service’ on my phone and had to dial 999 and had to guess where I was as I couldn’t see any road markers. Many roads do now have driver location signs to identify where you are and the Recovery Call Centre can track your mobile phone for a location now too.
- If you don’t have a mobile walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway – never attempt to cross the carriageway. Follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police/Highways Agency. Give full details to the police and tell them if you are a vulnerable motorist, such as a woman travelling alone or have young children with you.
- Be prepared to wait – my recovery driver took an hour and we were classed as ‘unsafe’.
I have to admit it was a scary time. Kids will be kids and they were soon jumping around, moaning they were cold and had no sense of danger, so I had to be quite firm with them and distracted them with playing games that kept them still. When the recovery van arrived we had to remain on the bank whilst the driver had to search for the bar to tow the car (I had no idea where it was) and I loaded the kids back into the car so we could be towed to the next lay by where he could look at the car properly.
Although I was given instructions on how to be towed, it was an experience I never want to repeat as I felt so out of control of the car. My normal power steering didn’t work, the brakes were really hard to operate and I felt far too close to the van in front. It did get us to the safety of a lay by where they could look at my car safely.
The only other issue I had were the car seats as mine are isofix and they could not be fitted in the cab of the recovery truck, which wasn’t ideal. Thankfully Eliza’s was able to convert to just using a seatbelt so Sebastian went in there, Eliza took the booster and Isaac, as the eldest, had to sit in the normal seat.
It wasn’t an experience I want to repeat but this adventure is the one thing about the Easter holidays that the kids are going to remember forever!
For more advice on what to do when you breakdown, the AA have some excellent tips.