What to do if you’re stranded in a car on a dangerous DC highway

WASHINGTON — From accidents to flat tires, D.C.-area motorists can find themselves in a disabled vehicle on some very dangerous highways. For stranded motorists, the main question is whether or not staying put is the safest move.

According to AAA, the first thing a driver should do is get the vehicle safely out of the travel lanes and into the shoulder of the road, if possible. Next, turn the car’s hazard lights on so other travelers can clearly see that the car is disabled.

After you call for help, John Townsend with AAA Mid-Atlantic recommends getting to an area off the road, where you can wait for help away from the traffic. You should always have a flashlight in your car, in case your car breaks down at night.

When exiting the car, Townsend said everyone should exit away from oncoming traffic, which means getting out through the passenger side doors if the car is pulled off to the right shoulder.

“If you can’t extricate yourself and get to the shoulder of the road, away from the roadway, beyond the guardrails, it may be wise to just stay in the car,” Townsend said.

The most dangerous mistake a person can make is to stand near their car as they await help. In 2017, four people died after being struck while standing next to their car, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

Townsend said safety is behind AAA’s decision to have tow trucks move cars from highways during peak hours, even if the plan is just to help a driver repair a flat tire and send them on their way.

“Be mindful of your personal safety and don’t panic. You will be rescued,” Townsend said.

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