It happened just two weeks ago. A few miles from our Corporate Office. A mother, her elementary school-aged daughter, a family friend and two dogs were driving in their Volkswagen Passat on Inter-State 84 at 4am when the car ran out of gas in the right-hand travel lane. The mother proceeded to activate the cars emergency flashers and call 911 to seek assistance. Three minutes into the call the car was rear-ended by a tractor trailer and all were killed.
No one knows exactly what happened. The truck driver did not see the blinking lights on the rear of the auto until it was too late for him to stop on the roadway. The problem was compounded by the fact that the auto remained in the travel lane of a two lane, highly trafficked, interstate, after it ran out of fuel.With summer approaching, vacation season "ramping up", college students home for the summer and families embarking on road trips, June would serve as the optimal time to share some automobile safety reminders. With an emphasis on what to do when your car breaks down on the road.
Below are some reminders that I have compiled from various sources and subject experts such as AAA, the National Safety Council, and Liberty Mutual Insurance.
First, Try to Get Your Car Off Of the Road:
Usually when a car begins to have issues on the roadway, it usually does not stop suddenly in the road. Momentum will keep the vehicle in a forward motion. So if possible, quickly but on your blinker and get your car to the side of the road, out of the traffic lanes. Preferably to the right shoulder
Second, Stabilize the Car:
Turn on your hazard lights, place the car in park, apply the emergency brake and turn the steering wheel away from the road so that the car does not accidentally roll back onto the highway.
Third, What if you CANNOT pull off the road?
According to the Automobile Association of American (AAA) “If your vehicle loses power and is inoperable, switch on safety/emergency flashers. Do not risk personal injury by attempting to push it to a safe location. If you cannot get your vehicle to a location away from traffic, or if you are uncertain about your safety and think your vehicle may get struck from behind, do not stay in your vehicle. “
The above is an important point. Many auto safety websites and subject experts will recommend that you stay inside the car, as to not get hit by another auto or truck while exiting the vehicle. And your safety and that of your passengers is crucial. BUT if circumstances put you in a situation where there is a possibility that your car will be rear-ended, you need to get everyone away from the car, safely.
Fourth, Call for Help:
Many cars are equipped with roadside assistance mechanisms. And more than 77% of drivers carry a cell phone on their possession, so dialing 911 should not be an issue, but if you do not have access to either, point five below is imperative.
Five, Break Out Your Automobile Emergency Kit:
Raise the hood of the car, that is the universal sign of distress for motorists (and will alert passing police that your vehicle has an issue). Break out flares, reflective triangles and if night time, turn on the interior dome lights to illuminate the inside of the car. If you can, tie some white cloth to your antenna.
Lastly, Stay Away from the Road:
It is tempting to go into your trunk and use your jack; open the hood and start tinkering with the engine or begin walking down the shoulder for help. But even with the car off of the travel lanes, you can still be at risk for a collision. YouTube is filled with videos of car collisions occurring when one vehicle is disabled and a second vehicle accidentally rear ends it. So if you are in danger of a vehicle colliding with your own, move as far back from the roadway as possible and await assistance.
Today automobiles are built safer than they have ever been, and with proper maintenance and safety checks before you hit the road, the chances of a breakdown are slim. But in case something drastic occurs and you find yourself in this situation, please remember the points above. It could save your life, someday. Enjoy the road. Stay safe. :)