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Roadside Breakdowns: How to Prevent Them And, If All Else Fails, Stay Safe Until Help Arrives

Posted March 22, 2019


Roadside breakdowns. Most of us have been there: gripping the steering wheel and trying to angle a dying vehicle toward the shoulder of the road. Where you breakdown—whether it’s a busy stretch of highway or deserted country road—determines what you need to do to stay safe while dealing with the trouble. For local fleets, a stranded driver can also spell unexpected expenses, missed stops, and unhappy customers.

A new analysis of AAA roadside data shows that vehicles 10 years and older are twice as likely to end up stranded on the side of the road compared to newer vehicles. And, with older vehicles, the odds of needing a tow quadruples. Because most roadside trouble is avoidable, AAA encourages drivers to make a good B-E-T to stay on the road by having a vehicle’s Battery, Engine, and Tires, regularly checked. Here’s a list from AAA of the top 3 vehicle issues that lead to breakdowns:


The Top 3 Vehicle Issues That Lead to Breakdowns 

  • Battery-related issues, including faulty starters or alternators. A battery on the brink of dying rarely warns a driver before it fails, but having a simple battery test will.
  • Engine cooling system failures, such as the radiator, thermostat or water pump, or engine parts such as the timing belt. Much like a battery, the components of the engine cooling system may fail without warning.
  • Tire damage severe enough to require repair or replacement. Drivers can minimize this risk by checking tread depth, tire pressure, and whether their vehicle is equipped with a spare tire.

How to Safely Pull onto the Shoulder of the Road 

Even with preventative maintenance, some breakdowns are unavoidable. If your vehicle starts sputtering out, regardless of the setting, don’t forget to immediately turn on your hazard lights. Once you’ve cleared the road and are safely on the shoulder, make your vehicle even more visible by turning on the dome lights and leaving the headlights on.

Your business vehicles should always be equipped with an emergency kit and a copy of your fleet’s safety and accident policy. Only exit your vehicle if you’re in a rural area with low traffic or a residential area. Exiting a vehicle parked on the shoulder of a highway can be deadly. For a highway breakdown, follow these tips from Automotive Fleet Magazine:

5 Highway Breakdown Tips

  1. Pull over and out of traffic if possible. Even if all of the emergency lights are activated, some highway drivers do not pay close attention and could rear-end the disabled fleet vehicle, causing further damage or injury.
  2. The driver shouldn’t attempt to fix the vehicle, even if it appears it’s going to be a quick or easy fix. Wait for professional help to arrive.
  3. Only exit the vehicle if it’s necessary or safe to do so. If possible, raise the vehicle hood to alert passing authorities that the vehicle is disabled and help is needed.
  4. Patience is a virtue in breakdown situations. In heavily trafficked metropolitan areas, police and tow truck operators regularly patrol the highways. Help will arrive soon.
  5. Lastly, make sure to keep a copy of the fleet’s roadside assistance or accident policy in the vehicle at all times.

Don’t Skimp on Vehicle Inspections and Repairs

When it comes to breakdowns, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Don’t skimp on having your business vehicles regularly inspected.

“Drivers may skip taking their car in for an inspection, hoping to avoid an expensive repair bill,” AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, John Nielsen, told the AAA newsroom. “But, when you factor in the cost of an interrupted trip, having a vehicle inspected and proactively repaired will cost much less in the long run.”






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