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Motorway SOS box
5 minute read Car Sharing Guides

What To Do If You Break Down On The Motorway

Sometimes breakdowns can’t be avoided. Here’s what to do if you break down on a motorway.

by Louise Thomas

Driving on a motorway isn’t that scary once you get used to it. However, they are particularly dangerous places to break down. To avoid a breakdown, make sure your car is ready for a long journey.

The first thing to do is ensure you have breakdown cover in place before you set off. This applies to any journey, particularly when you’re travelling longer distances. Check your tyres and fluid levels before leaving. Perhaps most importantly make sure you have enough fuel for the journey! If you start to notice the fuel gauge looking low, don’t try and stretch it out. Stop at the next service station and refuel.

What to do if you break down on a motorway

Although it’s best to try and avoid this situation by following the tips above, it’s important to be prepared in case it does happen.

Make sure you’re safe

If you notice your car failing on a motorway, try and drive carefully to the next junction or service station. If this isn’t possible, indicate left and pull onto the hard shoulder. Make sure your wheels are turned left, away from the road in case the car rolls, and turn on your hazard lights. If it’s dark or foggy, turn on the side lights too.

The hard shoulder is a dangerous place to be, so you don’t want to hang around. Exit the car through the left-hand doors as quickly as possible. If you’re travelling with a pet, it’s better to leave them inside the car. It’s safer for them and for other drivers on the motorway.

Call for help

Call your breakdown recovery service. Mobile signal can be patchy in some parts of the UK. If you can’t use your phone, walk to the nearest emergency telephone which connects directly to the Highways Agency or police. These are located at one-mile intervals and signalled along the back of the hard shoulder.

Always walk facing the oncoming traffic and face the same while on the phone. Wait safely behind the crash barrier until help arrives.

What if I break down a on a smart motorway?

On smart motorways, the hard shoulder is converted into another lane to help ease traffic flow. So where do you go if you break down?

Smart motorways have laybys called Emergency Refuge Areas (ERA), every 1.5 miles. They are marked with large blue signs and have orange SOS telephones. Once you are in the ERA, turn on your hazard lights and exit the vehicle through the left-hand side doors.

Use the SOS phones to contact the Highways Agency and gain further instructions. If your car is repaired and you can re-join the motorway, remember to contact the Highways Agency and make them aware of your intention to leave. They will then mark the left lane with a red X, closing the lane so you can re-join the motorway safely.

If you break down in the middle of two ERAs, try and head to the left lane and move onto the verge if there is no barrier. Turn on your hazard lights and exit through the left-hand doors.

Contact the Highways Agency so they can close the lane. If you can’t exit your vehicle or reach the left-hand lane, remain in your vehicle with your seat belt on, switch on your hazard light and call 999.


Take a break. Share the driving.

Another important safety tip for long journeys is to take regular breaks. Make sure you plan these in advance so the driver never gets too tired. You could even share the driving to ensure all drivers get a break. After all, a burden shared is a burden halved!

Sharing the driving is easier than ever thanks to Car Sharing Insurance. Insure yourself on a friend or family member’s car from one hour to 30 days. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even extend cover on the app. Car Sharing Insurance is fully comprehensive, meaning the owner can relax and take a break from driving, without worrying about someone else taking the wheel.

Louise Thomas

Hi I'm Louise and I'm a Marketing Executive at Veygo. I've been driving for nearly two years after several "practice" tests! I love the freedom that comes with finally having a driving licence. Road trips with my friends are the best - especially when we've got an awesome playlist going! (check out our Spotify for road trip playlists!)

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