It's no fun to get stuck on the side of the road with a disabled car, but at least there are reliable towing companies that can help get you and your car home – or to your mechanic's shop – quickly and safely. However, your tow truck driver will need some time to get to you, and in the meantime, you have to stay safe on the side of the road. This can be a dangerous place to wait for a ride, so it's a good idea to have a plan in place to help keep you safe while you wait for your ride. Check out some roadside safety tips you can use while waiting.
Before A Breakdown
There's one important thing you can do before your car has a breakdown that will ensure your safety – you can pack an emergency kit to carry in your car. You probably already have bits and pieces of an emergency kit – for example, you probably have a jack, and you may carry a set of jumper cables. However, a good emergency car kit includes more than just a few car repair tools.
Experts recommend an emergency kit should have a blanket, so you can keep warm even if your car won't start during a snow storm. A fire extinguisher in your trunk can make a big difference in the amount of damage you'll sustain if your engine catches fire. If your car ever skids off of the road and into a ditch, you could end up muddy or wet when you try to get out of it – a set of extra clothes can come in handy.
You'll also need a first aid kit to patch up any minor injuries from a crash. A candle and matches and a wind up flashlight can provide you with light while you wait for a tow truck at night, and road flares can alert other cars to your presence, possibly preventing an accident, and let your tow truck driver know where you are if your car is stuck in a place that's difficult to spot.
When Your Car Problems Start
As soon as you realize your car is disabled, the safest thing you can do is get your car as far off the road as possible. If your car will move, put on your hazard lights to warn others around you you're going to be pulling over, and drive until you're past any hills or blind curves and until you have clearance to pull off the road and onto the shoulder.
Unfortunately, in many cases a disabled car just won't go that far. If you have no choice but to stop on the road, you should put your hazard lights on and pop the hood of the car or the trunk, if you can do it from inside your vehicle. It's best not to get out of the car in that situation if you can help it – it's just too easy for an oncoming car to fail to see you and hit you.
Your disabled car is bigger and more noticeable, and it's less likely to get hit than you are, so on a busy road, stay put and keep your seatbelt on while you wait for help. If the road is deserted and you can see a long way in either direction (and if you're physically capable) you may be able to try pushing your car off the road and onto the shoulder.
While You Wait
Call your preferred towing company as soon as you have stopped your car and made your position as safe as possible. When you call, ask the dispatcher for the name of the driver who will be meeting you and the license plate of the tow truck they will be driving. You will want to verify this information when the tow truck driver arrives.
It's possible that you'll be approached by other drivers while you wait for your tow truck. Most people simply want to help, but it's wise to be cautious just in case. Stay in your car, keep your car doors locked, and only roll the window down partially to speak to anyone who approaches your window. Don't leave the car or accept a ride from anyone other than the tow truck driver.
There really is no perfectly safe place to be when you're on the side of the road or in the road with a disabled car, so you'll need to be on the alert and ready to adjust to whatever road and weather conditions exist at the time of your breakdown and accident. If that sounds scary, remember you can contribute to safe conditions for stranded motorists and the tow truck drivers that help them by slowing down and moving over whenever you see a disabled vehicle, and encouraging other drivers to do the same. One day, you may need other drivers to slow down and move over for you.