If you have been in an accident, or your vehicle has broken down and you find yourself stranded on the side of the road, you may be feeling vulnerable and unsafe as you wait for help. If this is your first time in such a precarious position, and you feel lost regarding what to do while a towing service is on their way, we hope that this brief list of safety tips will equip you in staying out of harm’s way as far as possible, as well as helping you breathe some calm into the situation.
1. Move your vehicle off the road
To protect yourself from injury, your car from further damage, and oncoming traffic from dangerous obstruction, it is crucial to move your vehicle somewhere safe, like the shoulder of the road. If your car is unable to move using its own power, you may need to push (this will require two people; one to push and the other to steer). Make sure you turn it off and pull the handbrake up once you have managed this.
It may not always be possible to move the vehicle, in which case it is best to stay inside, with your seatbelt fastened until help has arrived. This makes step two all the more important.
2. Warn other motorists
Making sure people can see you and are aware that they should pass with caution is important for everyone’s safety. A motorist caught off guard by your vehicle could cause more problems.
Switch on your hazards the moment your vehicle is stationary. If you own a safety triangle or traffic cones, place these about 50m away from where your vehicle is standing, ensuring you warn other drivers about an emergency situation well in advance. This equipment is useful both during the day and at night.
3. Call for Help
Once you are in a safe place, it’s time to make some calls.
First, figure out exactly where you are by using a GPS device or a tracker on your phone. If you don’t have either of these, or your phone battery is low, try looking for any form of signage to offer you some clues, or make a rough estimate of how far out you are from a familiar place. These methods aren’t perfect, but can still make a difference in an emergency.
Who to call:
- A friend or a family member. This ensures that someone knows where you are. They may also be able to come and wait with you for help, making things a bit safer if you are alone.
- A towing service or emergency roadside assistance. If you are insured, you could be eligible for roadside assistance. In this case, phone your insurance company first; they will be able to guide you through the process. Alternatively, phone a towing service immediately. Check out our article on the standard towing process to prepare you for what is to come.
- The police, if needed. If anyone has been injured, you are stranded with small children, or you have broken down in an area with a high crime rate, call the police. They can come and wait with you until the towing company has arrived, and can help verify company legitimacy before your vehicle is removed. Dial 112 to reach the call centre, which will redirect you to the most appropriate emergency service. This number does not require that you have any airtime.
4. Stay in your vehicle if possible
Oftentimes, it is just not safe to wait outside your vehicle for help. On a busy road, this puts you in danger of being injured, and on a quiet road, it could make you vulnerable to acts of crime. Keep your seatbelt on and the windows rolled up (if it is a hot day, open your window only a little bit, to allow for some circulation and to prevent heat stroke).
Waiting with your vehicle is also important, as towing is in most cases only permitted with the driver’s confirmation and direction as to where the vehicle should be taken.
5. Be aware of strangers
Although you may encounter a good Samaritan who genuinely wants to help, you must remain vigilant and not accept assistance from a stranger. If someone approaches you, keep the doors locked and only roll your window down slightly so that you are able to speak – do not roll it down completely and assure the person that you have already called help. Do the same for when the towing company has arrived so as to confirm that it is them (you should also receive SMS confirmation or a call when the dispatched vehicle has arrived).
6. Plan how you will get home
While you are waiting for help to arrive, start planning how you will get home once your vehicle has been towed. A lot of tow-truck companies have no problem with you catching a ride in the front seat, but if you have more passengers with you, you will need to make alternative arrangements. Your insurance company, if you have one, may again offer assistance in this regard and so it will be useful to liaise with them first. If you do not have insurance, find out if a friend or relative could pick you up, or reach for the number of an accredited taxi company, like Unicab or Excite Taxis, who could take you home.
Recommended must-haves for future emergencies:
Whilst getting caught in a situation like this is unnerving, it offers the opportunity to learn and be prepared for the possibility of a similar event in the future. Here are a couple of key items to always make sure you have with you when driving anywhere:
- An emergency first aid kit
- A reflective triangle
- Bottled water and a dry/non-perishable snack
- A phone charger
- A torch
- Blankets, in the case of cold weather
- A sheet with emergency numbers, including that of your insurance provider
At Tow Truck Services, we aim to offer an efficient service to come to your rescue in whatever situation you have found yourself in. We hope that these few steps have helped you keep safe and calm as you wait for help to arrive.