It is the start of the busiest time of the year for breakdowns on England’s motorways
Highways England data found that more than 48,500 motorway breakdowns happened between the final week of June and the first weekend of September last year.
It is expecting to respond to an extra 700 breakdowns a week for the next 10 weeks. This would take the average number of motorway breakdowns each week to almost 5,000.
Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said:
“Highways England has done a lot of work to ease congestion on our motorways and make them safer, and our traffic officers are there to help get things moving if there’s a problem. But you should also make sure you know what to do if your vehicle does break down.
“We’re expecting to see a big increase in breakdowns over the next few weeks as drivers set out on longer journeys during the summer. So, we’re urging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving, including carrying out simple vehicle checks before setting off, to help keep us all moving.”
Around a quarter of summer breakdowns are caused by punctures or other tyre issues. Vehicles running out of fuel and engines overheating are also other common reasons for breakdowns on motorways.
Highways England is advising drivers that regular car checks help avoid breakdowns:
- Check tyres: prior to setting off on a long/significant journey, check your tyre pressures are suitable for the load and the condition of your tyres, including the spare. Look out for cuts or wear and make sure the tyres have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm, which is the legal limit
- Check engine oil: use your dipstick to check oil regularly and before any long journey, and top up if needed. Take your car back to the garage if you’re topping up more than usual
- Check water: to ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen
- Check lights: if your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. In addition, light malfunctions can be a reason for your vehicle to fail its MoT
- Check fuel: before setting out, check your fuel levels and make sure you have enough to get to your destination
More advice can be found online on the vehicle safety checks webpage.
Highways England has also issued five basic safety tips to follow if your car does break down on a motorway:
- Get away from the traffic: exit the motorway or get to an emergency area or hard shoulder and use the free phone provided
- If that’s not possible, move left onto the verge
- Get out of the left side of your car and behind the barrier if you can and it is safe to do so
- Get help – contact your breakdown provider or Highways England on 0300 123 5000.
- If you break down in moving traffic and cannot leave your car, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on and call 999
New motorway safety campaign
A new Highways England safety campaign is also encouraging drivers to keep left except when overtaking, to help keep traffic flowing more freely, and to ‘follow the signs’ to keep everyone moving – that includes red X signs, which are used to close lanes, and variable speed limit signs, which help improve the flow of traffic and tackle stop-start conditions.
Red Xs are displayed on overhead electronic signs to close lanes for several reasons, including an accident or breakdown, debris in the carriageway, or because of a person or animal on the road. Lanes are also closed to help emergency services get through or to provide a safe space for road workers.
Ignoring a red X has been an offence since 1988, with drivers facing a £100 fine and three points on their licence. A new law was introduced earlier this month which will enable enforcement by cameras after all the necessary testing and preparation has been completed.
Please visit Highways England’s web page for more information about driving on motorways.