You’re enjoying a stress-free, rush-hour drive on northbound Interstate 95 (this is clearly fiction) when your car breaks down a half-mile from the I-395 junction (seems like this happens every day). What next, dear motorist? Get out or stay in? Call whom first? Several recent D.C.-area highway deaths remind us that knowing what to do after a vehicle breakdown or accident is more important than ever.
Not to worry. We’ve got you covered. AAA has provided a handy pamphlet that provides a checklist of things to have and things to do in case of a breakdown. Here are the highlights:
Note your vehicle’s location: Know where you are in relation to a major exit or cross street. Look for well-lit areas. Notice landmarks such as service stations, restaurants, shopping centers and business complexes. If you are on an interstate highway, note the mile marker, last exit number or nearest emergency call box or rest area.
Assess your vehicle’s problem: Steering problems? Steam or smoke coming from the cracks in the hood? Figure it out and make a mental note.
Pull over: Turn on your hazard lights and move to the closest shoulder. If you’re running out of gas, coast and apply your brakes only when you’re safely out of the way of moving traffic. If your vehicle has lost power and you can’t get it to the shoulder, keep your hazards on and don’t try to push it to the sound of the road, AAA says. If you think the vehicle has stalled in an unsafe location and will inevitably get struck from behind, keep the hazard blinkers on, safely exit the vehicle, and move yourself and other occupants to a safe location.
Alert other motorists: Turn on your blinkers. You can also put your hood up and position emergency markers around your vehicle. Safely, of course.
Communicate your situation: To someone - to USAA or AAA or someone else that can provide towing services. Or a family member or friend who can help out.
Stay with your vehicle: Experts agree that it’s usually safest to stay inside your vehicle until help arrives. Be mindful of your surroundings and keep your doors locked until a tow truck arrives. Store a flashlight with fresh batteries in your glove compartment. If help is within walking distance, assess whether you want to depart he vehicle. If you decide to exit your vehicle, you and any other occupants should depart on the side away from traffic.
Have your pertinent information handy: Vehicle license plate number, make/model/year of your vehicle, location of your vehicle, and your phone number come to mind.