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10 Things You Should Do If You Get Stranded While Driving

Posted by Marc Michelsen on

We hope it will never happen, and if you keep on top of routine maintenance and have your car regularly serviced, the chances are it won’t. Sometimes, though, the unexpected happens – flat tires, a broken fan belt, an accident in bad weather – and you could end up stranded by the roadside.

It’s a stressful situation but follow these steps to keep yourself safe while you wait for assistance to get you back on your journey.

  1. Stay calm

It’s natural to panic, especially if you’re up against a deadline such as traveling to catch a flight. Try not to let it take over, though – keep your cool and you’ll cope far better with managing what’s happened.

  1. Look after yourself

Cold weather can affect the body quickly, putting stress on the heart and reducing core temperatures. Put on gloves, a hat and other layers to keep warm. If any of your clothing is wet, change into dry garments if you can; it’s a good idea to carry spare clothes, especially in winter.

  1. Assess the situation

If your car is stuck in snow and will be difficult to dig out, don’t try. Over-exertion and sweaty fabric next to the skin in cold weather can contribute to exposure problems. You’ll be safer if you stay inside your vehicle and wait for help to arrive.

  1. Warn other motorists you are there

Place reflective hazard warning triangles ahead of and behind your vehicle. During daylight, a brightly colored scarf or cloth tied to a mirror will help make you visible.

  1. Call for help

Few of us leave home without a mobile phone, so it’s likely you’ll have a way to contact emergency services, breakdown assistance or a friend or family member who can make sure you’re rescued.

  1. Don’t flag down other drivers

It might seem the sensible course of action but flagging down other motorists when they’re not expecting to see you can be dangerous. (The only exception would be in the event of a life-or-death emergency.) Instead, hang something white from the driver’s window – it will attract attention and indicate you’re in distress. A shirt or even a paper towel is fine.

  1. Stay by your vehicle

Don’t be tempted to wander off to find help, especially if you’re stuck in a blizzard – you could find yourself getting lost very easily. If you think you and any passengers would be safer out of the car, then always exit on the passenger side – never get out onto the road in case of oncoming traffic.

  1. Keep warm

If it’s cold, you’ll need to stay in the car. Make sure the exhaust pipe is clear and run the engine for about ten minutes each hour with the heat on full. Keep one window slightly open to prevent carbon monoxide building up. If you have passengers, cuddle up together to share your body warmth; if you’re alone, huddle up as much as you can.

  1. Stay awake

Falling asleep can be dangerous, especially in low temperatures. You can take turns sleeping if you have passengers. Be alert for any signs of frostbite or hypothermia.

  1. Move frequently

Keep your circulation flowing by changing position regularly – stretch your arms and legs; clap your hands; roll your head, neck and shoulders. If it’s safe to do so, you can get out of your vehicle to walk around and stretch for brief periods.

Unless you live in or are traveling to a very remote area, it’s unlikely you’ll be stuck for long. It might be a matter of minutes before help arrives, or an hour or two at most before breakdown assistance can get to you. However, it’s always best to be prepared so take precautions before you travel – at the very least, ensure you’re carrying spare clothes, a snack and water, a blanket, a flashlight and a portable mobile phone charger.