Safety Smarts: Flat Tires and Other Roadside Breakdowns

Written by a Guest Blogger

Everyone experiences an auto breakdown at some point. Whether it’s a flat tire, an empty gas tank or a problem under the hood, roadside safety is essential. The first rule of roadside safety is to not panic.

Panicking can make the situation worse and increase the odds that you’ll have an accident. Instead, focus on keeping your breathing calm. There are five steps you’ll want to follow if you happen to find yourself stranded by a roadside emergency.

Step #1: Pull over.

As soon as you realize your vehicle is having trouble, try to pull off the road. Getting out of the way of other motorists will keep you and other travelers safe. If traffic is heavy and it’s difficult to get off the road, put your hazard lights on. This will alert the drivers behind you that your vehicle is having difficulty or that your tire is flat.

Once you’ve pulled over, you have to decide whether to go for help or stay put. Don’t go for help if you’re in a bad area with little to no traffic. Also avoid leaving your vehicle if the weather is bad. This includes severe thunderstorms or snow fall. In these situations, it’s best to wait for help to come.

If you opt to leave your vehicle, lock the doors and put valuables (like electronic gadgets) out of sight. A full purse or an MP3 play left on your seat could be temptation for a thief.  Protect yourself by hiding gadgets or taking them with you.

Step #2: Help other motorists spot your vehicle.

Good warning signs include triangle lights, flares or a warning light. If you’re able, set up triangle lights or other warning lights several feet behind your vehicle. This will give other motorists advanced warning about your flat tire or other auto problem.

Step #3: Let drivers know you need assistance.

You can let other drivers know you need assistance by raising the hood of your vehicle. You can also get attention by wrapping a white cloth around a door handle or the radio antenna. If you have a cellphone, you can use it to dial 911. The 911 operator may not be able to detect your location so it’s important that you give accurate information about nearby landmarks or signs.

In the event that a tire goes flat, you may be able to change it on your own without help. There are instructional videos that can guide you through the process and make it easier for you. You can even use a service like YTD to play or download a video tutorial on changing a tire.

Step #4: Be wary of accepting help.

Good Samaritans do still exist. But you want to be careful that you don’t accept help from someone pretending to be a Good Samaritan. If someone approaches your vehicle, keep the doors locked. Lower the window only enough to speak to the person. Ask them to call for help but don’t invite them into your vehicle.

Step #5: Keep your seat belt on.

When you’re stuck in your car, your first instinct may be to take off your seat belt. While seat belts can be uncomfortable to wear for a prolonged period of time, keep yours on anyway. In the event that another motorist hits your vehicle, you could be injured. This is why it’s important that you stay buckled up even if your vehicle isn’t running.

Roadside safety is an important part of being a good citizen. Many experts advise preparing an emergency roadside kit and keeping it in your trunk. This can come in handy if you become stranded on the road.

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About the Blogger

Lisa Harold is a veteran mechanic. She often blogs about common car troubles and how to stay safe with your car.

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Auto Upkeep 4th Edition

Michael Gray

Mike has roots in the automotive service industry. He began diagnosing and fixing cars at a young age in his family’s service station. He has worked in automotive parts supply stores, towing companies, and service facilities. After graduating from St. Cloud State University (MN) with a Bachelor’s degree, he implemented and taught a basic car care program at the high school level. During work on his Master’s degree at Illinois State University (IL), he was a curriculum specialist on a National Science Foundation project where he co-authored ten integrated mathematics, science, and technology books designed for team teaching. Mike has also supervised teachers in Career and Technology Education as a school system administrator.

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