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Tips on What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down at Night

Home » Tips on What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down at Night
October 15, 2017
Edward Smith


Tips on What to Do When Your Vehicle Breaks Down at Night

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident lawyer. Breaking down on the highway can be a dangerous situation for the driver and occupants of the vehicle, particularly at night. Being prepared is one way of mitigating the danger.


According to the Office of Traffic Safety, 1,983 of Fresno residents were injured or killed due to motor vehicle accidents in 2014, the last year for which comprehensive data is available. Of this number, 201 injuries and deaths occurred between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 2:59 a.m., while 440 were speed related. The fatality risk at speeds above 31 mph is double compared to lower speeds with those where the impact speed was 25 mph.

Highway Vehicle Breakdown

According to the Insurance Information Institute, leaving your vehicle after it has broken down  on a busy freeway or at an intersection is perilous. Rather, they and AAA representatives suggest:

  • Do not leave the vehicle unless there is a significant reason to do so, such as a fire.
  • Turn on your emergency flashers immediately.
  • If it is not already done, fasten your seat belt.
  • If you have any warning that a problem exists, move toward the right lane on the highway. If you can, pull to the side of the road.
  • Determine where you are as precisely as possible using landmarks, mile markers or crossroads.
  • You can put a sign in the window asking a passerby to send help, however, this is not an effective measure in the dark.
  • In California, call 511 to contact the Freeway Service Patrol. This program between the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Caltrans and local transport agencies helps stranded motorists. It is operational on weekdays and holidays, usually during high traffic periods.
  • Call a roadway assistance number, such as AAA, if you are in possession of one. If you can search for the local CHP office or a general number on your cell phone, call to notify them you have broken down. If necessary, call 911, particularly if someone is hurt.
  • If you must leave your motor vehicle, don’t use the driver door. If possible, use the passenger door.
  • If you have a flat, roadside assistance will fix it. If you are in an area where getting out of the vehicle is especially hazardous, move as far off the road as you can even if it means driving on the flat. Too many people are killed changing a tire.
  • If highway or intersection traffic permits, set flares around the vehicle. This is tricky since you will have to exit the vehicle to do it. If it does not appear that it is safe, stay inside.
  • If you are outside your vehicle at night, use a flashlight to alert others that you are standing there.
  • Be careful of those who stop if they are not acting in any official capacity, such as service persons or law enforcement. While most people are just trying to help, some have nefarious reasons for stopping.
  • If you are leaving your motor vehicle and walking to get help, leave a note identifying yourself, where you are going, whether you are injured and the time you left.

Be Prepared for Roadway Difficulties

Some things you can do to be better prepared for a car breakdown is to carry a flashlight in your vehicle along with road flares. Having a canned tire repair kit in case you must fix a flat yourself is invaluable. In the event you must wait a while, store a blanket in your backseat and some snacks.

Types of Accidents You Might Encounter

Rear-end collisions are the most common followed by side-swipe accidents. Passersby will have difficulty understanding your vehicle is stopped, particularly if your warning lights are not flashing. If you are outside your vehicle, they may follow their gaze and side swipe the car.

Why You Need an Experienced Car Accident Lawyer

Roadway accidents can cause devastating injuries such as traumatic brain injury, fractures or spinal injury. Dealing with insurance companies is tedious even if you suffer a minor injury much less a catastrophic one. Having a seasoned attorney to answer insurer questions, determine loss in the accident and possibly take the matter to court helps you recover medical damages and lost wages as well as pain and suffering.

Fresno Car Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a Fresno car accident lawyer. If you have suffered injuries due to the negligence of another driver or someone in your family died because of it, I can help you by providing free and friendly advice. Just call (559) 377-7676 or (800) 404-5400

Since 1982, we have provided Fresno and Northern Californians with help in accident injury claims and wrongful death lawsuits. You can see how some cases were resolved on the verdicts and settlements page.

You might want more information about my practice. You can get that by reading client reviews and peer comments on Yelp, Avvo and Google.

I am a member of a nationwide group of trial lawyers who have won $1 million in lawsuits and case settlements. You can learn more at

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