Every year, thousands of Canadian motorists experience vehicle breakdowns that leave them stranded on the side of the road. When it happens, it can be unsettling and nerve wracking especially if you are unsure of what to do.

Hoping to help drivers effectively handle a breakdown, CAA, along with several government and police organizations offer tips and guidelines to motorists who may find themselves a "Stranded Driver".

Pull over to the side of the road

First and foremost, stay calm and pull off to the side of the road as quickly and as safely as possible.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation Driver's Handbook, "At the first sign of trouble, begin to pull over. Do not wait for your vehicle to stall. Check your mirrors, put on your hazard lights, take your foot off the gas pedal and pull over to the nearest shoulder as quickly as possible."

    If you cannot pull over to the side of the road
    Turn on your car's hazard/safety/emergency flashers. This is the quickest way to alert drivers behind you that you are experiencing trouble.

    Never get out of the vehicle to try and push your car out of the way. Only leave the vehicle if you're unsure of your safety and concerned about your car being hit, and only if there is a safer location to go to. If you have to leave your vehicle:
    • Be watchful of traffic at all times
    • Get out of the car on the side away from the traffic
    • Never stand behind or in front of your car as other drivers may not see you

Make your car visible to other drivers

Turn on your car's hazard/safety/emergency flashers. With these on, other drivers will be more likely to see you especially if your breakdown has happened at night or during poor weather. Also, if your car safety kit is easily (and more importantly-safely) accessible, make use of the roadside reflectors or road flares you may have in it.

Note your location

Make note of where you are by looking for street signs, highway exits, and mile markers or nearby landmarks like service stations and restaurants. Having these details handy will help you be found sooner and get you out of harm's way faster.

Call 911

Being stranded on the side of the road is an emergency, so don't hesitate to call 911; the 911 operators are there to help you and will provide you guidance on what next to do. Then, call a family member or friend; the more people who know about your situation and location, the better. Next, if you are a member of a roadside assistance program, call them too.

Prevention is the best policy

Lessen your chances of being stranded on the side of the road and:

  • Service your car on a regular basis to avoid preventable mechanical breakdowns
  • Do not drive the car if you've had mechanical problems that have not yet been fixed
  • "Listen to your car" and understand what it means when dashboard warning lights appear
  • Do regular walk-arounds of the car to ensure nothing appears out of place
  • Plan ahead and have a car safety kit
Although often people think of mechanical breakdown as the reason for being stranded on the side of the road, it can often be a result of poor weather conditions.

Be sure to watch the weather and listen for road conditions before leaving on a drive. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation and the Government of Alberta - Transportation post the latest information about road conditions and highway alerts.

Be prepared

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