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Beware the hard shoulder breakdown

Friday, 22 August 2008

The last bank holiday before Christmas sees many motorists make long motorway journeys and sadly, some of these journeys will be interrupted by a breakdown. And a motorist''s troubles don''t end once the car is on the hard shoulder; it is an extremely hazardous place on which up to 20 people are killed each year. But the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) says that understanding the risks at the roadside and knowing what to do will keep you and your passengers safe.

Remember that it is illegal to stop on a hard shoulder, except in an emergency. At the first sign of trouble with your vehicle, slow down gradually, pull over to the far-left side of the hard shoulder, put your hazard warning lights on and turn your steered wheels to the left. If possible, try to stop where other traffic has a clear view of your car - avoid bends or the brow of a hill.

Put on a high-visibility jacket to increase the chances of other motorists seeing you and move any passengers away from the vehicle via the left-hand side. Behind the motorway barrier and to the rear of the vehicle is safest position to avoid any flying debris if passing traffic strikes your vehicle. Pets and children must also be kept under control.

Attempting to use a reflective triangle will put you at even greater risk and is not advised.

It is not safe to carry out repairs on the hard shoulder. Call for breakdown assistance on your mobile phone or, more preferably, from one of the emergency phones positioned at half-a-mile intervals along the motorway which can help the motorway Control Centre locate your exact location. Look for arrows on small marker posts indicating the direction of the nearest phone.

Wait well away from the motorway and hard shoulder for help to arrive.

If you are alone and feel in any way threatened, return to the vehicle and wait in the front passenger seat if you are travelling in a car, with the doors locked and the seatbelt on. The moment you feel safe get back behind the barrier.

On rejoining the motorway, use the hard shoulder as an acceleration lane, to match your speed to the flow of traffic and then merge with the traffic in the left-hand lane.