Three-quarters of drivers put themselves in danger when broken down on motorways

A busy UK motorway

Make sure to follow the safety advice if you breakdown on the motorway

A worrying 78% of drivers would choose to wait in the wrong place if their car broke down on the motorway.  

Only a fifth of drivers would do the right thing 

A recent survey by the RAC revealed that only 22% of drivers would do the right thing and  exit their car through the passenger side and stand to the rear of their vehicle, where it’s advised to stay as far away from traffic as possible, preferably behind a barrier. 

Shockingly, 11% of people said they would stay inside their vehicle, leaving them at great risk of being severely injured or killed should an oncoming vehicle hit them.  

The reality paints a more worrying picture, as analysis from 200 RAC patrols found 78% of drivers they attended while broken down on the motorway were still in their vehicles when they arrived. 

Two thirds of people (65%) said they would stand either in front of, or next to, their vehicle which can also put them at risk of being hit by another vehicle, or their own if someone hits the back of their car. 

What to do if you breakdown on the motorway 

The RAC offers simple guidelines on what to do if you have a breakdown on the motorway or any high-speed road. 


  • Pull over on the hard shoulder if there is one 
  • Turn on your hazard lights and sidelights 
  • Turn on rear fog lights too if the visibility is poor and you can’t see over 100 metres 
  • If it’s safe to do so, get out of your vehicle using the doors furthest from traffic – wear bright or high vis clothes if you have any 
  • If there’s a safety barrier, wait behind it to the rear of your vehicle – watch out for potholes and steep drops 
  • If there’s no safety barrier, stand to the rear of your vehicle far away from traffic 
  • Keep your eyes on the traffic at all times 
  • Keep calm and stay where you are until the patrol arrives

If you, or someone you’re travelling with, cannot easily get out the vehicle then you should move everyone to the side of the car furthest from traffic and put your seatbelts on. You should also call 999 to make them aware and let your breakdown recovery service know. 

RAC comments 

James Pallister, who has been an RAC patrol since 2015 says: “Increasingly, when we arrive at the scene of a motorway breakdown we find members still inside their vehicles, or stood next to or in front of them – two of the most dangerous places to be with vehicles approaching at fast speeds.

Alice Simpson, RAC breakdown specialist had this to say: “In cold wet weather, it’s very tempting for anyone who breaks down on a motorway to stay in their cars. Sadly, we know from experience this is absolutely the wrong thing to do unless for some reason you aren’t able to get out of the vehicle. This is why we are always reminding people to pack plenty of layers, good waterproof clothing and sturdy footwear so they can keep warm while they wait for help.”

To keep you as safe as possible, check out our tips for cold-weather driving 


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