Breakdown: What to Do on the Road if Your Vehicle Breaks Down - The Mobility Resource

Have you driven past a car stuck on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing? While we have the best of intentions to keep our vehicle running at optimal level, eventually something unexpected may happen where we find ourselves needing assistance.

Do you have a plan in case your vehicle breaks down?

Remain Calm
Easier said than done, right? When something unexpected happens, panic, fear, and shock are natural responses. If you find yourself in a panic, focus on slow, steady breathing to find your center.

Pull your vehicle off the road
If possible, pull off to the side of the road as far onto the shoulder as possible, on most roads the right side, remaining on level ground. Watch for oncoming traffic, especially in conditions of poor visibility. Avoid any sudden maneuvers and slowly move your vehicle into a safe location.

Assess the Situation
Assessing the situation may include reviewing your vehicle’s operational manual, looking at warning lights or signals. Listen for any usual sounds, visual signs, such as smoke, or become aware of unusual movements. Obviously, if there is an acute emergency, make sure you are safe.

Location, Location, Location
Note where you are. If you are in an unfamiliar place or town, note any landmarks, mile markers, street signs or business names. Become aware of your surroundings so you can communicate your location to others.

Roadside Assistance
Being a member of roadside assistance like AAA or a Motor Club provide towing services, in some cases up to a certain number of miles, gasoline delivery, or battery delivery services. Know what services your roadside assistance program does and does not provides to drivers with disabilities. For example, most roadside assistance towing services will not transport the individual, and you may need to find an accessible taxi service or alternate method of transportation to get to your destination.

Weather the Elements
Poor road conditions can contribute to vehicle malfunctions, stall-outs or becoming stranded. As a precautionary measure, do not drive through flooded waters, especially for converted accessible vehicles that are closer to the ground. Have a “to-go” bag in your vehicle with emergency supplies to help you weather the elements.

Staying in or Going?
Depending on the situation and how long you need to wait, it may be safer to stay inside your vehicle or get out of your vehicle. Most motor experts advise that if you can pull away from traffic and are in a safe location, it is best to remain with your vehicle. In this case, do not leave the engine on for extended periods of time.

Yet, there may be circumstances where you need to get out. Use caution when getting out of your vehicle, especially if you use a ramp or lift. If you leave your vehicle, communicate to other motorists with hazard lights. Never remain directly behind or in front of your vehicle where other motorists may have trouble seeing you.

Back-Up Accessible Equipment
For those who use a power wheelchair, having a manual chair in the back of your van may take up space, but provides a back up chair in the event you need to leave your motor wheelchair behind.

Care Givers and Direct Support Staff
Some people with disabilities may be with their caregivers or direct support staff. Again, in unexpected situations, keeping each other calm is an important first step. Help each other in assessing the situation and creating an action plan. The direct support staff member may need to write their own incident report for their supervisors. 

In the event of an accident:
No matter what happened or how small it was, be sure to take down the other person’s insurance information and contact your own insurance company to find out the next steps to file a claim. I-phones make it possible to take photos on-site. Work with your insurance company, as repairs to accessible vehicles may require additional costs.

While it may take some time, create an emergency checklist or supply list to be sure you have what you need for the road!

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