Highways Agency Plans Will Make Breakdowns Harder To Shoulder

Posted on January 7th, 2014 by GEM Motoring Assist

Road safety and breakdown cover specialist, GEM Motoring Assist, has joined the debate about the Highways Agency’s plans to scrap portions of our motorway hard shoulders.   This will include some of the most densely used parts of the M25, the M1 and the M6.

“The idea behind these plans is to keep roads flowing more freely to ease congestion, which is great in principle but there are obvious and worrying concerns,” says David Williams MBE, chief executive of GEM.

“Since 2005, an increasing number of UK motorways have been re-classified as ‘Smart Motorways’, which use what was previously the hard shoulder as a traffic lane to assist traffic flow during certain times of the day.”

“Unfortunately, when the system is in operation, a vehicle breaking down no longer has an immediate traffic-free area in which to stop.  Ideally the driver will be able to reach one of the many refuge areas built into the system at frequent intervals.  However, this is not always possible and if unlucky, a driver may find it necessary to stop in the middle of the traffic flow which is likely to be unnerving for even an experienced driver.”

“On the plus side, Smart Motorways are constantly monitored, so if a driver doesn’t make it to a refuge area, help will arrive very quickly.”

“Of course prevention is always the best policy, and whilst not all breakdowns can be avoided, drivers can reduce the risk.  We always recommend motorists carry out checks before setting off but it’s particularly important if they are going on long journeys and especially if they know they will be driving on motorways.  It’s also important to be prepared if the worst should happen”.

GEM’s tips

  • Before you set off on any long journey, check your tyres, battery, oil level, coolant level, windscreen (for chips or cracks), screen wash, lights, fuel and mirrors
  • Watch for changes to the feel of your car and be aware of strange noises or smells which should be investigated as soon as it is safe to do so
  • Make sure you have the manufacturer’s handbook for your car and don’t ignore warning lights
  • It is a good idea to keep a tow rope, first aid kit, torch, fluorescent reflective jacket, blanket and spare bulbs in your boot
  • Check you have up-to-date breakdown membership and don’t forget your card/policy number
  • Fully charge your mobile before you leave, and for extra safety keep an in car charger with you (not for use whist driving or near fuel

In case of breakdown on a motorway

Hopefully good planning will help ensure that nothing goes wrong but in case it does, here are some useful guidelines to follow in the event of a breakdown on a motorway:

  • Breaking down on the side of the road can be extremely hazardous.  Consider you own safety first – if possible get your vehicle to one of the safety points
  • Switch on your hazard lights and pull onto the hard shoulder as far as possible      and turn your wheels away from the road. Do not attempt to put a warning triangle up on a motorway
  • Ideally, all passengers should get out of the vehicle.  Ensure they leave by the nearside door, and then wait behind the barrier and as far away from the road as possible
  • For your own safety you should wear a fluorescent reflective jacket or tabard – it is now illegal in some countries not to wear one
  • Call for assistance on the nearest emergency telephone as this will help the      emergency services locate you accurately and help you quickly
  • Do not try to cross the carriageway
  • Keep passengers well away from the carriageway and children under control
  • You must leave animals in the vehicle or, in an emergency, keep them under proper control on the verge
  • Do not attempt even simple repairs and do not leave the car bonnet open

Drivers should also be aware that different rules apply when breaking down on a motorway as opposed to other roads.  As the nation’s No1 breakdown specialist, GEM Motoring Assist has some useful advice to help drivers avoid this potentially dangerous situation. Download the GEM Motorists Breakdown and Emergency Guide.