Roadside emergencies happen to every driver. A flat tire, overheated vehicle, or accident can happen any day -- and force you to move your vehicle off the road for repairs or towing. This can be an incredibly dangerous situation, as you're vulnerable to getting hit by other vehicles while you're stopped on the side of the road.
Whether you're performing repairs on your vehicle or waiting for help, it's important that you take steps to keep yourself safe while you're on the side of the road. Read on to learn how you can practice roadside safety, plus find apps that can help you perform repairs and call (and receive) help quickly.
Roadside Emergency Safety Tips
If you're on the side of the road, you'll need to exercise caution. Follow these tips to move to safety and stay out of the danger of traffic, remaining as safe as possible.
- Take action immediately: If you notice car trouble, start moving over right way. If you wait too long, your car may stop moving before you're able to get off of the road.
- Get as far off the road as possible: If you're experiencing an emergency while driving, the most important thing you can do is get to a safe place. A shoulder will do if that's all you can manage, but it's best to exit freeways, turn off roadways, and pull into a rest stop or parking lot. Try to stop under a street light if possible. Never stop around corners or curves, on the bottom of a hill, or on a narrow road. Don't stop on a left shoulder unless you have no other choice, as you will be unable to get out of your car and walk off of the highway. Even if you're destroying your tire, keep going until you can get to safety. You may even save yourself tow truck fees if you're able to get to a parking lot where you can handle repairs.
- Warn others you're having trouble: Turn on your hazard lights, and if you have safety cones, signs, flares, triangles, or a light, use those as well to increase your visibility. If you're stopped at night, be sure to leave your lights on. You can also pop your hood to show others you're having car trouble.
- Call for roadside assistance: If you have roadside assistance through your insurance, cell phone carrier, or roadside club, give them a call immediately. They are typically available 24/7 with fast service that will take you to the nearest vehicle repair location. Remember to put their phone number in your cell phone so you'll always have it handy.
- Don't exit your car until it's safe: If you're having an emergency, you may feel panicked and want to investigate the situation immediately. But be careful about getting out of your car, especially if you're still near traffic. Get out of your car through the passenger side if there's traffic on the driver side. And of course, look for traffic before you open your door.
- Remember you're in traffic: If you're on the shoulder, keep in mind you and your car are not protected by the thin white line that separates you from the other cars speeding past on the freeway. All it takes is a distraction or wind to have a vehicle drift over into the shoulder, hitting your car. You should also take care to keep your distance from the flow of traffic. If you can't perform your own roadside repairs safely, it is best to remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on and doors locked. Don't stand behind or next to your vehicle.
- Be prepared with emergency supplies: Keep a first aid kit, extra water and food, and emergency repair supplies including tools, a spare tire, duct tape, jack, jumper cables, heavy duty rope, gloves, and fix a flat. You should also have flags, flares, or reflective triangles to warn other drivers that you're having trouble.
- Be careful about accepting help: It's best to call professionals or a trusted friend or family member who can help. Yet strangers who see you're having trouble may stop to offer assistance. They may be well intentioned, but you should use caution. Lower your window only enough to talk and use your best judgement in accepting their help. If you're waiting on roadside assistance or a tow truck, thank them for stopping but tell them you'll be taken care of.
- Know when to call a professional: Some vehicle owners can handle quick roadside repairs without help, but even the most savvy of DIYers can get in over their heads and end up in dangerous territory. Know when it's smart to call for help. While you might be able to handle a tire change in a parking lot, it's not a good idea to try to do the same while you're on a highway shoulder. Use your best judgement.
Roadside Assistance Safety Apps
Need help? You can get connected with service providers and repair advice quickly using these roadside assistance apps. Find a tow truck, learn how to change a tire, and get help fast so you can get safely off the road.
- HONK: HONK is a free on demand roadside assistance app. It has more than 45,000 tow truck partners nationwide, and flats can be fixed in as quickly as 30 minutes. All you have to do is open the app, share your location information, and the kind of help you need. You'll hear back from a service provider with an estimated time for their arrival. This service is available 24/7.
- Repair Pal: With RepairPal, you can get help with auto emergencies and roadside assistance. The app offers an easy way to find mechanics in your area and get one touch access to roadside assistance.
- Urgent.ly: Urgent.ly is an on demand roadside assistance service. It has Uber-like visibility and a flat rate pay per use pricing. They use thousands of trusted service providers nationwide to get drivers back on the road quickly with immediate help and no annual fees. You'll see nearby help, pick a service, and watch help arrive in real time.
- Good Hands Rescue: This Allstate Insurance service is available to everyone, whether you have insurance with Allstate or not. Using this app, you'll get in touch with the Allstate network of roadside assistance providers and get help when you need it. It uses your phone's GPS to pinpoint your location and mobilize a service provider who can help. You'll also get real time updates including a service confirmation and ETA information so you know when help is on the way.
- AutoZone: Think you're up to the task of fixing your car yourself? AutoZone's app has a repair help feature that offers trustworthy advice for fixing your car yourself and getting back on the road.
Photo by Flickr user 29233640@N07