Being stuck on the side of the road is something that can happen to just about any driver. During the winter, dispatchers from the CAA receive up to 3,000 calls for roadside assistance.
If you find yourself stranded due to an accident or mechanical trouble, you'll want to keep yourself as safe as possible while you wait for assistance. That means following these helpful tips for protecting yourself and other motorists.
Move to the Shoulder ASAP
Unless your car was involved in accident and was subsequently immobilized, you should move it as far away from moving traffic as possible. In many cases, this means moving your vehicle off to the right-hand shoulder or into the parking lot of a business establishment. Not only does this reduce the risk of yet another accident, but it also gives the tow truck drivers more maneuvering room to hook up your car.
In no way should you attempt to move a vehicle that has been thoroughly immobilized or is leaking fuel. In the case of a fuel leak, you should move to a safe distance away from the vehicle until help arrives. Otherwise, remain in your vehicle until the authorities secure the accident site.
Visibility is the Key
After moving your vehicle out of the way, your next step should be to make your vehicle as visible to oncoming traffic and the tow truck driver as possible:
- Turn your hazard lights on – This should be the very first step after moving your vehicle off to the shoulder. The flashing lights help other drivers spot your vehicle, especially during night and on dark, unilluminated roads. Most vehicles feature the hazard lights button near the top center of the dashboard or somewhere along the steering column, usually at the 12 o'clock or 4 o'clock position.
- Position reflective triangles around your vehicle – Reflective triangles are yet another visual aid that helps oncoming drivers see your vehicle. You should have three reflective triangles positioned around your vehicle - one at the front and rear, and another one positioned along the side of the car, facing the road.
- Use road flares for added illumination – Road flares can be seen at long distances, making them indispensable for breakdowns in seldom-traveled locations. As with any source of open flames, care should be taken to avoid leaking fuel sources and other ignitable materials while using road flares.
- Grab a high-visibility safety jacket - If you have to leave your vehicle for any reason, then it's a good idea to don a reflective safety jacket while you're outside. As with the reflective triangles, oncoming traffic will be able to spot you and your vehicle in a reasonable amount of time. This jacket should be a part of your roadside emergency kit.
Have Your Roadside Emergency Kit Ready
Breaking down in the midst of Canada's winter weather is always a daunting and stressful prospect. Even after calling roadside assistance, it could take hours for help to reach you under extreme weather conditions. Having a roadside emergency kit on hand can easily increase your chances of staying safe and calm as you wait for help.
A basic roadside emergency kit should have everything you'll need to stay calm, call for help and safely wait until help arrives. This includes a fire extinguisher for putting out small fires, a cell phone for emergency communication, jumper cables, spare fuses and a blanket for staying warm in extreme cold.
Always Be Cautious
So-called "crimes of opportunity" can happen at any given moment and the brief wait for a tow truck can turn out to be a rather vulnerable moment. The most important thing you can do is remain in your vehicle with the doors locked until the tow truck driver or emergency officials arrive.
These tips can help you stay safe whenever you find yourself stranded and in need of towing or other roadside assistance.