Before you hit the road this summer, it is good to be prepared in case the unexpected happens.

RELATED: Preparing for a Successful Road Trip


Vehicles can break down for many reasons that are outside of our control. During the summer, long drives in high temperatures can result in issues such as a battery overheating, engine strain, and low oil pressure. AARP reminds drivers that if your car breaks down, it is important to have a reaction plan and prioritize your safety over your destination or plans.


Pull over safely. When you first notice an issue with your vehicle, turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers that you are pulling over. If possible, avoid braking and maneuver your vehicle to the shoulder as soon and safely as possible. If you are on the freeway, the safest and best place to stop will be on the right shoulder of the road or in another flat and open area far away from moving traffic. When you are completely stopped, keep your hazard lights on for visibility and apply your emergency brake to ensure your car stays in place.

Assess the situation. If you are close to a busy road or highway, the safest place to be is inside the vehicle. Being a pedestrian on the side of the roadway can put you at risk for being hit by another vehicle. You should remain inside your vehicle to protect yourself from oncoming traffic and the elements.

However, if you see smoke or flames coming from your vehicle or you are at higher risk of getting hit by oncoming traffic, exit your vehicle safely and move to a safer area to wait for help.

If you must, exit the vehicle. If you have determined the safest option is to exit your vehicle, ensure that you are in a safe spot and the road is completely clear before opening the door. You can prop up your hood to increase your car’s visibility, signal that your car has broken down, and alert other drivers to proceed with caution.

Call for help. If it is an emergency, call 911. Use your phone or an app to call an emergency roadside assistance provider. Contact a tow truck for further assistance if you do not have a provider. Additionally, you can hang a white cloth or paper out of your window as a signal for help.


Flat Tires

Flat tires can occur at the most inconvenient times. If you notice your car is bumping or thumping, followed by a significant change in the steering and handling – you may have a flat. You may also hear a flapping sound from the flat tire. Don’t worry, flat tires are a manageable fix.


Pull over safely. Similar to breakdowns, turn on your hazard lights to warn other drivers that you are pulling over. Do not brake immediately to avoid stopping in traffic. Maneuver your vehicle to the shoulder and apply your emergency brakes.

Call for roadside assistance. If you are covered for roadside assistance, call your provider for options.

Consider changing the tire yourself. If you do not have coverage for roadside assistance, consider changing the tire yourself. In your car safety kit, you should have a jack, a lug wrench, and a full spare tire. Familiarize yourself with the tire changing process by reading your car’s manual. You can also search for directions how to change a tire on your phone. A video tutorial is a great way to learn and go through the process step-by-step.

If you must drive on a flat tire, know how to do it safely. Although driving on a flat tire is not recommended, if you need to keep moving to find a safe location to pull over, you should. Drive slowly and no faster than 15-20 miles an hour to prevent damage to the metal wheel. Go as straight as possible and stay on a smooth road, avoiding any potholes, steep inclines or declines, and patchiness. Pull over when you find a safe spot to do so.

Remember that when you have a flat tire, the only thing between your car and the road is a thin piece of rubber. This can cause safety concerns for other drivers on the road and yourself, so only do this if it is absolutely necessary.


Getting Lost

While planning your road trip, familiarize yourself with the route before you hit the road. While driving, you can avoid getting lost by focusing on the road and paying attention to your surroundings. Look for landmarks and take note of places to stop along the way so you can use them as reference points as you go. If you find yourself off-course and need help, here are some tips to get you back on track.


Use a map or GPS. You can prevent getting lost in the first place by using an app or GPS. A GPS or paper map will be the most helpful if you are in an area with limited internet access. GPS uses satellites to pinpoint your location. You may be able to download your route ahead of time through your mapping app, which will rely solely on GPS to assist you in the event you lose your cell phone connection along your drive.

Do not look for directions while actively driving. It is important to remember that you should not distract yourself while driving. In many states, it is illegal to operate a hand-held device while driving. If you must reroute, pull over safely to look up new directions.

Ask for directions. If you are close to a town center, stop by the chamber of commerce or city hall for assistance. The staff there should have a thorough knowledge of the area and will be eager to make a positive impression. Additionally, consider going to credible establishments and service stations for help.


We hope that you have an enjoyable trip and that these tips help you overcome any hurdles along your drive.


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