Your car breaking down in the middle of nowhere can be a nerve-wracking situation. If you're unfamiliar with the area, don't know much about cars, and don't have the proper emergency supplies, getting stranded on the side of the road can be downright dangerous. In fact, there are numerous common mistakes people make in such situations that can increase the risk of injury or death. If you find yourself stuck with a broken-down car, make sure to avoid these five critical mistakes:
1. Not having an emergency auto kit When your car breaks down, especially in inclement or cold weather, it's imperative to have emergency supplies readily available. Road kits will include important items such as first aid supplies, a flashlight and extra batteries, jumper cables, a rain poncho, flares, reflective triangles, and an emergency blanket. Not only, in the worst-case scenario, do these tools ensure that you can survive until help arrives, but also give you a means of alerting other vehicles of your presence (note mistake No. 2).
"An emergency auto kit allows you to alert other vehicles of your presence."
2. Not making yourself easily visible The reason emergency auto kits come equipped with flares, help signs, and reflective triangles is specifically so that you can make other motorists aware of your situation. This is particularly important at night, but make sure to still take these precautions during the daytime. You'll want other drivers to be able to see you from as far off as possible so that even at high speeds they'll have ample time to move over as they pass you. Also, make sure to turn on your hazard lights, and lift the hood of your car if possible.
3. Exiting the vehicle in an unsafe area Pulling over far onto the shoulder or a less busy side street isn't always a viable option. Make sure to stay in your vehicle rather than standing next to it on the side of the road in high-traffic areas. If you exit your car on the thin shoulder of a busy highway or in an area with low visibility, you're more likely to get hit by passing motorists. Keep the doors locked and leave your seatbelt firmly fastened, then call for help and wait in the safety of your car for the professionals to arrive. Such situations are another reason to have an emergency kit, as these caches often include drinking water and energy bars to prevent you from getting dehydrated in the event of an extended wait.
4. Trying to walk to find help According to The Car Connection, there are a couple of important reasons to not abandon your broken-down vehicle. First and foremost, walking down the side of a road isn't safe, and if you don't know where you're going you can easily get lost. Secondly, roadside services, such as AAA, can't do anything to the car if you're not present. Rather than venture into the wild, stay with your car so that when assistance arrives, you're there to receive it.
5. Flagging down strangers Don't rely on the kindness of strangers. Once you've made your car visible to other drivers with flares and reflecting triangles, don't go out of your way to attract the attention of those passing by. Not only may a person stopping to "help" you have malicious intentions, but also may not know what they're doing. All in all, your safest bet is to call roadside assistance or emergency services, depending on the situation, and rely on the knowledge of trained professionals.