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How to Handle a Breakdown on a Shoulder-Free Road

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Car breakdowns never happen under ideal circumstances. Nope, they happen when you’re already running late to work or while trapped in heavy traffic or when you’re a lone wolf in the middle of nowhere with no cell reception or automotive know-how, or when Mother Nature has decided that the pelting rain or blinding snow isn’t enough for you to deal with that day. One of the most *awesome* places for a car to break down is on a road that has no shoulder. A shoulder-free road gives you no option to pull-over or push your car to get out of traffic, away from the not-so-helpful screaming and honking motorists behind you, and into a safe area.

Although this situation warrants a well-deserved freak out, panicking need not be part of the equation, according to Scott Huntington, National Motorists Association’s guest blogger.


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“Breakdowns on these types of roads have happened before, and you’re going to make it out of the situation just fine. Authorities tend to monitor these roads closely because they don’t offer space for broken cars to occupy,” writes Huntington.

In addition, Huntington recommends that emergency flashers should be flipped on as soon as you realize there is a problem. Other drivers will see the distress signal and hopefully give you space or contact help if necessary. Huntington also suggests putting out an emergency triangle (if you have one), leaving the hazards on until help is spotted, and raising the hood to alert emergency personnel and tow operators to your breakdown.

If possible, try and ease your car into a rest area, advises Huntington. If that is not feasible, aim for stopping near a call box. For the luckiest of drivers who break down in a tunnel, Huntington’s advice is similar, but with the added instruction to remain in your car until help arrives, unless an evacuation of the tunnel is required.


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Even if you know how to fix your vehicle, do not attempt to do so with traffic buzzing around you, advises Huntington who recommends calling for help via cell phone or in-car service. If neither are an option, he urges you to exercise extreme caution when leaving your car and walking to the nearest call box where you can safely call for help. Also, Huntington strongly discourages you from flagging down other motorists on a busy shoulder-free street because your actions could trigger a larger incident.

By reacting calmly and keeping safety a priority, you will be able to navigate the stress of a breakdown until help appears.

News Source: National Motorists Association