If you are unlucky enough to have your vehicle break down, you need to be able to react effectively and safely. We’ve summed up the best advice for being prepared.
AT ALL TIMES
Forewarned is forearmed
Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained. Ideally, you should also carry an emergency kit at all times—or, at the very least, a flashlight, some basic tools, bottled water, a first-aid kit and a blanket.
Be able to describe where you are
While driving, mentally note reference points: streets and intersections if you are in an inhabited area; on-ramp and exit numbers if you are on the highway. This information can be a big help if you have to call for roadside assistance. Remember that the navigation and location systems that come with certain vehicles may not work if you are in a remote area. Also, these systems can sometimes fail.
Pay attention to your vehicle status
Be alert for dashboard warning lights, unusual noises, and any change in your vehicle’s handling. Keep a close eye on the fuel and engine temperature gauges. In a breakdown, any information that you can provide will be useful for the emergency response, and will ensure that the patroller brings the appropriate equipment.
IN A BREAKDOWN
Pull off the road, get far away from traffic and make yourself visible
Turn on your emergency flashers right away. If you can, pull over onto the shoulder, as far to the right as possible. Light emergency flares and put them behind your vehicle, if necessary. You can raise the hood or even tie a brightly coloured scarf to the antenna—the key thing is to tell others that you need assistance.
If there is a danger of other vehicles colliding with yours, leave your vehicle and find a safer place; always exit by the passenger side. Otherwise, the best thing to do is remain in your vehicle with your seat belt fastened until help arrives. This last piece of advice is even more important if you find yourself in a tunnel: here again, you should pull over to the right as far as possible to wait for help.
Inform authorities of your situation
If you are in a dangerous situation, it is recommended that you call the police (9-1-1, or *4141 if you are on the highway) so that a patrol car can be dispatched to secure the area. Once you are in a safe place, then you can contact a roadside assistance service. Call from your vehicle if you have a mobile phone. If you don’t have access to a phone, try to flag down another vehicle. Never accept a ride from strangers, however, even if they offer to drive you to the nearest telephone. If somebody stops to help, always ask them to make the call for you.
Have all the necessary information on hand to give to the dispatcher
You will have to provide:
- your name;
- the vehicle make and model;
- your location and the type of breakdown;
- your licence plate number; and
- a phone number where you can be easily reached.
If you are calling CAA-Quebec’s Emergency Road Service, have your membership card number ready. Also, find out when the tow truck will arrive. The assistance service should be able to provide you with an estimated time of arrival based on the weather conditions and the breakdown location. When the tow truck does arrive, make sure it is actually from the assistance service you called.