What to do if you have a breakdown or an accident on the motorway

Nobody is immune from a breakdown or an accident on the motorway, so it’s best to be prepared. It is essential that you take the right action to stay safe and reduce the risks of a worse incident. It is crucial to protect yourself, warn others, and then rescue passengers. We take a look at the right things to do and the various people to contact.
What to do if you have a breakdown or an accident on the motorway

What to do if you have an accident or a breakdown on the motorway

If your vehicle is involved in a collision or breakdown, you should take the following steps:

  • Put on your left indicator
  • If possible, move your vehicle to the hard shoulder
  • Turn on the hazard warning lights
  • Turn off the ignition
  • Wear your high-visibility safety jacket
  • Exit the vehicle carefully
  • Get the passengers out on the right-hand side of the vehicle and take them behind the safety barrier for protection
  • Use a free emergency telephone or call National Highways on 0300 123 5000 if you can’t exit your vehicle. Then, call a breakdown provider for assistance, or the emergency services if you’ve been in an accident
  • Join the passengers behind the safety barrier

Please note: In the event of a breakdown or accident on the motorway, you aren’t obliged to use your warning triangle. Doing so would expose you to additional risks and the speed of other vehicles can also blow it into traffic, causing an accident.

Who to notify in the event of a breakdown or collision on the motorway

To deal with an accident or breakdown more effectively, don’t use your own phone: initially, go to the nearest orange emergency phone box. These are positioned every 1.5 miles along the hard shoulder and are marked by big blue signs.

These geotagged phone boxes put you in direct contact with the police, who will put you through to the Highways Agency Regional Control to find you quickly and give you instructions on what to do next. Try to give an accurate description of the breakdown or accident.

If you can’t get to a phone box, dial 999 or text 999 or 0738 028 3600 for roadside assistance if you’re deaf, hard of hearing or mute.

Please note that mobile apps allow you to contact the motorway company without having to go to a phone box.

Who provides breakdown and rescue services on the motorway?

In the event of an accident, the police will attend along with the motorway services who report the accident. If necessary, the fire brigade and the ambulance service will also attend.

It is important to have the number of a breakdown recovery provider in your phone, just in case of a breakdown. For a minor breakdown or puncture, they’ll be able to carry out repairs on the spot if visibility is good and if the work won’t take long.

What are the costs if you have a breakdown?

This will depend on your provider and the necessary work that they need to do to get you back on the road again. Local garages can charge high fees for assistance and are not likely to be open at night. Additionally, if you break down out of normal business hours, on a weekend or public holiday, you are likely to be charged extra. Other services may also be added: supplying parts, additional labour, and so on. Since prices aren’t fixed, you can contact your insurance company for advice.

Highways England can charge high prices for roadside assistance and recovery, which can be up to £150 for large vehicles. Thus, it is a good idea to invest in breakdown cover, which is available for short- or long-term periods of time and costs a lot less.

Insurance cover: how does it work?

The way your vehicle is taken care of, and the associated costs depend on your insurance cover. Additional cover for assistance, towing, accommodation or taxi fares may be included, depending on the terms of your contract. Don’t hesitate to contact your insurer after notifying the motorway company.

It is worth knowing that running out of petrol is considered to be avoidable and you can face charges of up to £5,000, a court case and up to 9 points on your licence if you run out of fuel and cause an accident. If you break down and cause an obstruction on the motorway, you could face a fine of £100 and 3 points on your licence.

If you have a breakdown or an accident on the motorway, try not to panic. Stay calm and do the following: protect yourself, alert the emergency services, and then offer to help if you can.