Imagine this: You're driving down the freeway, minding your own business, maybe going a little faster than you should because you're late for work or that dinner engagement you'd forgotten about until the last minute. Things are under control until you hear a telltale pop, sputter or hiss that tells you something is seriously wrong with your vehicle. Is it time to panic?
Panic should be the farthest thing from your mind at this time. By following a few simple tips, you can manage this potentially disastrous event and turn it into a learning experience.
Slide to the Right
If it's at all possible, pull your car to the right side of the freeway before it completely dies. Stopping on the left shoulder does you little good because it's usually narrower and you may need to cross at least two lanes of high-speed traffic on foot to get help. The best place for you to be immediately following a breakdown is sitting in your car with the doors closed.
Your car won't restart under its own power, so you'll need to get comfortable. Affix a white cloth or, in a pinch, a white piece of paper to your driver's side window so that passing cars can see it and know you're in trouble. Put on your hazard lights, too. If you have flares or hazard cones in your car, you should exit the car from the passenger side and put them out. Otherwise, note your location according to the nearest mile marker and stay in your vehicle.
Make the Call
If you are all the way off to the side of the road and aren't affecting the flow of traffic, the first call you make after a breakdown should be to your motor club for a tow truck. If you don't belong to one but know the area in which you've broken down, you can call a local mechanic. Keep a few numbers in your phone for just this occasion.
If you're blocking traffic in any way, you must call the police first. Since highway cops routinely ply freeways anyhow, one should be along shortly to help direct traffic and secure the scene. Having a friendly officer nearby will likely reduce the stress you feel at sitting alone and vulnerable in an immobile car, especially if it's nighttime.
Don't Be a Hero
Your first thought may be to run off to find help or to try to change your flat tire or other simple mechanical issue yourself, but you need to be with your car at least until help arrives. Both the police and the tow truck driver will want to know exactly what happened, which they won't be able to figure out on their own. Also, even standing on the side of a busy freeway can be dangerous, so don't risk injury by spending any more time outside your car than is absolutely necessary. Help is on the way.
You're never going to enjoy suffering an unexpected breakdown on the side of the freeway, but if you follow the tips above you'll maximize your safety and reduce your stress levels. Remember to tell your loved ones and employer, if applicable, where you are and what happened.
Kelly Leder is a full-time freelance writer living in New York. She recommends the site, www.roadsidediscovery.com for Roadside recovery comparison. Click here to compare services.