Virtually every vehicle owner will encounter car troubles at some point in time. This means that it is not a matter of whether your vehicle might one day break down, but when.
Your vehicle breaking down on the side of the road is not necessarily an indication that it is on its last leg. There are many reasons why a car might break down, including overdue maintenance, poor road conditions, and faulty equipment.
Car trouble can be disorienting even for the most responsible vehicle owner, which may leave you wondering what you should do when your car breaks down. Taking the right steps is key to preserving your safety and potentially preventing a car accident.
What To Do When Your Car Breaks Down
Staying calm is perhaps the most important thing you can do in the event of a vehicle breakdown. Take a few deep, steadying breaths before you begin to deal with the situation. Actively engaging in deep breathing, even during stressful situations, mimics your body’s natural breathing pattern. Once you’re calm and relaxed, it sends messages to your brain to help you calm down.
Once you’ve taken a moment to calm yourself, proceed with the following steps to protect yourself, your passengers, and other drivers.
Turn On Your Hazard Lights
Your hazard lights increase visibility and communicate to other drivers that there is something wrong. You should familiarize yourself with where the switch for your hazard lights is located before you ever start driving. The symbol for hazard lights is a smaller hollow red triangle inside of a larger one that looks the same. These lights can be turned on, even when the engine is not running and there is no key in the ignition. They should remain illuminated until the issue is fixed or your vehicle is towed.
You can also increase visibility by popping the hood on your car.
Pull Your Vehicle Over to the Side of the Road
If possible, pull your vehicle over to the far right side or shoulder of the road as soon as you start to notice there is a problem. Vehicles can break down suddenly, though, and there is not always time to maneuver your vehicle out of harm’s way. Do not try to move your vehicle if it is not safe to do so. Only attempt to put your car in neutral and push it to the side of the road when it is safe and you have help.
Engage the Emergency Brake
It never hurts to create an additional layer of safety. Engaging the emergency brake can prevent any secondary problems if your vehicle’s brakes were affected by its recent breakdown. It is especially important to engage the emergency brake when your vehicle is on an incline. You should also turn your vehicle’s steering wheel so that the tires are pointed away from traffic.
Consider Staying in the Vehicle
It is safer to stay inside of your car with your seat belt buckled if it breaks down on the highway or interstate. Getting out of your car for reasons other than to safely move it out of the roadway can unnecessarily put you in harm’s way. Your vehicle affords protection in the event of a car crash, and you are more likely to survive an accident as a vehicle occupant than as a pedestrian.
You can safely move onto a sidewalk or into a nearby building if your vehicle breaks down in an urban environment. Try to stay within eyesight of your car.
Call For Help
Not every emergency situation warrants calling 911. If you are not injured, and there is no threat of imminent harm or danger, do not call 911. Instead, you can contact:
- Roadside repair services
- Emergency towing services
- A friend or loved one for a ride
Use Your Emergency Repair Kit
You can also prepare an emergency car kit in case of a breakdown. Here are a few basics you should include in your emergency kit:
- Water bottles
- Nonperishable foods
- Phone charger
- Reflective triangles
- Blankets or warm clothes
It is also a good idea to keep jumper cables, a spare tire, tripod jack, and wheel wrench in your vehicle at all times. Having these items on hand can help you quickly deal with some of the most common reasons for vehicle breakdowns, including dead batteries and flat tires.
Car Maintenance and Breakdown Prevention
It is not always possible to avoid a vehicle breakdown. Poor road conditions, including bumpy, cracked, and uneven pavements can negatively affect your car’s transmission system or suspension. Depending on where you live and your route to work or school, you might have no choice but to continually drive on rough roads. This could ultimately harm your vehicle, leading to a breakdown.
There are steps you can take to limit the risk of your vehicle breaking down.
Take Your Vehicle in for Regular Service and Checks
You should take your vehicle in to a trusted auto mechanic to be serviced every 12 months or every 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. When you have your vehicle serviced, a mechanic will evaluate it for potential problems as well as general wear and tear.
Maintain All Fluid Levels
Your vehicle requires adequate hydration almost as much as you do. Regularly check things like coolant, oil, and brake fluid to ensure your car continues running as smoothly as possible.
Do Not Ignore Warning Lights
It might initially be easy to ignore a warning light when it pops up. Over time it might even blend in with the other information that your car regularly displays, such as vehicle speed and the gas gauge. Never ignore a warning light for tire pressure, battery life, oil level, or engine temperature. Promptly address the problem to keep your vehicle running safely for longer.
Finding Help After a Car Accident
Just like you are responsible knowing what you should do when your car breaks down, other drivers are responsible for identifying and avoiding potential hazards on the road. This includes keeping an eye out for disabled vehicles, slowing down, and moving over to avoid collisions. Not every driver is so responsible, though. Unfortunately, this means that you could do everything right after a vehicle breakdown and still be the victim of a car crash.
Your recovery may hinge on your ability to secure the right compensation. At Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC, we have plenty of experience in dealing with insurance companies and always stand up for clients’ rights.
If you are ready to move forward with your own personal injury claim, do not delay. Contact us to discuss the potential merits of your case with a Baltimore car accident attorney.
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