What To Do, To Stay As Safe As Possible, If You Are Broken Down On The Freeway
Breaking Down Can Be Scary
Breaking down anywhere, can be very disarming and scary, even for the most experienced driver. From having your vehicle stall in an area you are not familiar with, to breaking down in a known bad neighborhood, you are at a disadvantage and it is never convenient.
However, knowing what to do and when to do it, is the best key to survival, when you break down on the freeways, expressways and highways. It can mean the difference in living to tell of the horrific tale, and Not living to tell your story. This is not to say, that acting inappropriately, can impact the lives of everyone around you, as well as the person(s) whom are coming to help you get to safety and get you up and on the road again.
It is unfortunate, to say the least, that Towing Companies across the country have lost at least one employee on the freeways, due to their own under-attentive behavior which in many cases are elicited by the ignorance or disregard for safety, on the part of the person they are trying to protect and serve.
In the writing of this, I am in hopes to educate you in what to and not to do, if such an event should befall you or your family.. I hope it does not, but again as stated earlier, breakdowns are not every a convenience, and almost always has hidden and open dangers to everyone around.
So, You Broke Down On The Freeway.
So, you are driving and you are broken down on the freeway. This is probably one of the most alarming of any breakdown location. Cars are buzzing past, honking and making obscene gestures at you and your vehicle. You are overwhelmed by the activity, and you wish to get out and get away from your vehicle, until help arrives. STOP! Let's look at this reaction.
I have personally responded to drivers whom have had their vehicles stop in the middle lanes of a six lane highway. I arrive and find them out walking around the vehicle, or sitting on the hood or trunk. I have also seen where they crossed traffic lanes with vehicles buzzing them at over 65 miles-per-hour. Their excuse for doing this? To get out of harm's way..
I have also arrived at the scenes of highway disabled vehicles, where a driver has had a flat tire, which by the way is now shredded down to the rim. Let me add also, that the driver decided to stop their vehicle in the midst of "Rush Hour" traffic, in the center lane of the same six lane highway, then ran to the side of the road to get away from their vehicle.
In either case, the people placed themselves in a more tragic situation, than if they would have stayed in the vehicle, put on their seat belts and waited with the emergency flashers on, and waited for a responder to arrive. In the majority of the cases, especially the cases cited here, that would have been the best thing to do.
Running out into traffic to escape the possibility of getting hit, multiplied the chances of injury to the person trying to get out of harm's way. Why? Well because if you get hit, while running, by a vehicle going at almost any speed, will be met with devastating consequences. When you remain with your vehicle, you are putting a barrier (the car, truck, or what ever vehicle you are driving) between you and traffic. Common sense? Yes! But you would be surprised how the "Fight or Flight" responses will affect any common sense reasoning. Just be resolved to stay put, until help arrives.
Now, Let's look at same event, with a flat tire, for a moment. Your vehicle already has a damaged rim, with a shredded tire. Okay, so you decide to stop to avoid any further damage to your rims or your vehicle. Maybe the vehicle is having a hard time moving, but still is mobile. In my experience,, it is easier to force your vehicle to the shoulder, of the road whichever shoulder has the widest point to park your vehicle. Yes, even if you have problems getting the vehicle to roll, still force it over, unless you know an axle has been broken or a drive shaft has been compromised. Then it is in your best interest to stay put, in your vehicle, in lanes, and with your seat belt on.
On The Shoulder Can Be As Dangerous
Let us understand, that sometimes the breakdowns on the shoulder of the road, can be just as deadly and hazardous as breaking down in the travel lanes of the freeway or highway. I can not share enough stories where a Tow Operator has lost his life on the shoulder, helping a disabled vehicle.
It is understood that there are a lot of shoulder areas, on the freeway/highway, that is very narrow or near to be "non-existant" for you to park a vehicle. However, breaking down on the shoulder can be made to be an uneventful, provided you adhere to a few simple things.
It is understandable, that when someone breaks down, they want to see what damages may exist, or what tire is flat, or is simply scared and wants away from their vehicle. In either case, the motorist is lulled into a false sense of security, because they are not in direct path of traffic. However, that sense of false security is just that! False!
When you break down on the freeway/highway shoulder, people driving by like to look and in some cases will steer their vehicles where their eyes are looking.. A natural thing, in many people. Add Flashing lights of a police car, or Tow Truck, and you have now added a collage of distractions, which are like magnets to the driving public. Heaven forbid a drunk driver gets into the mix of flashing light distractions and steers his vehicle towards the pretty flashing lights, because his eyes are fixated upon them. But who is near or at the lights? Yes, Police officers, Yes, Tow Operators, and YES, YOU!
Staying In Your Vehicle
Staying in your vehicle is so "Under-rated" in today's society of "fast moving" lifestyles and curiosity. It is astounding how many times, I have came out to a disabled vehicle, near the "Fog-Line" or shoulder limit lines, where the shoulder meets moving traffic, only to find that the owner of a vehicle, walking next to or in traffic lanes, into oncoming traffic.
I am also amazed at times, when My life is on the line, with me under their vehicle changing a tire near the traffic lanes, how someone can just walk out beyond the boundary of my body, and stand there in amazement of how badly their tire shredded up and fuss about damage to the rim and fenders. Even explaining to these folks, that they have to stay on the shoulder or in the vehicle, they just stand there or they retreat to the shoulder, only to return almost immediately after getting into a safety zone.
It is suggested by both Highway Patrol, and most Major automobile club operators, that you just remain in the vehicle, until you are approached by either the towing operator, or the Police Officer. If you must evacuate the vehicle, under dire stress or dire need, then always plan to exit on the side of the vehicle, opposite traffic.. If that is not an option, stay in the vehicle until help arrives.
Tow Operators And Police Personnel Are Highly Trained!
I know there are some people out there that feel like they have to be in control, over every aspect of everything.. It does not matter how much experience they may or may not have, they are an authority of all things life related. IN their zeal, they always have to be heard, no matter what!
Let me share some insight to those folks. Police Officers and Towing Operators are highly trained in every aspect of recovering your vehicle in an accident, and in almost every aspect of providing safe and cautious service. In some cases, they will put their lives on the line just by getting out to help you, and it may seem like they are casual in their demeanor, while performing some pretty dangerous things. This may put a customer in a situation of throwing caution into the wind and approaching them, when they have instructed you to stay in the safety zone.
The lesson here is to say, "Swallow Your Pride and Stay Put" and "Listen To The Professionals Instructions." Those instructions are there to save your life and to protect you..
In All Matters Of Breaking Down On The Freeway
In all matters concerning your breakdown, where ever it is, Stay in your vehicle unless it is about to explode or there is a leaking fuel line or exhaust lead, bringing unsafe oxygen into your vehicle. You are safest in your vehicle, no matter where you are, until Help Arrives. Be sure that you only come out, when instructed by a tow truck operator you have summoned, or the police officer who is there to help you.
Never, Never get out of your vehicle unless you recognize the tow company that is there. One exception is if your state provides a state authorized service. In California we have Freeway Service Patrol, or FSP, which is connected and works directly with the Highway Patrol. If you have an Auto Club Membership, always ask the dispatcher which company is coming to help you. Aside of these parties, coming to help and instruct you on how to proceed; stay locked and secured in your vehicle.
If you have a flat tire, stay in your vehicle. The Tow Operator will come to you and request the keys and information about why your vehicle became disabled. If you have a flat tire, the operator will normally know this and a name of someone who is with you.. Ask Questions, for verification of Identity.. Tow operators have no problem with your feeling safe, with them being there.
In most cases, the operator will point you to a safe area and ask for you to stay there, until he completes his service to you, or hooks up your vehicle to be towed to a place of repair.
In Closing, I would like to say that by following these steps, you will be safe in most any case you find your self; day or night. With the exception only to be at night, be sure to use your emergency flashers and keep all lights inside and out, illuminated, until help arrives and gives you further instructions.
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