What to do in a breakdown or crash

Everything you need to know if your vehicle breaks down or you’re involved in a car crash.

Here are our tips to keep you safe and get you back on the road sooner.


Young drivers are overrepresented in crash statistics and are 60% more likely to crash than any other road user.

RACQ Manager Road Safety and Technical Public Policy Joel Tucker said there were important steps to follow in the aftermath of a car crash.

“Find out if anyone is hurt and render all assistance possible,” Mr Tucker said.

“And if the vehicle is blocking traffic, move it to the side to clear the road and avoid additional crashes – but, if the crash is severe, leave the vehicles where they are and call 000.”

Once everyone is safe, gather all the details you need from the other party including name, address, registration number, vehicle details (colour, make, model) and insurance information.

Mr Tucker said anything you do at the crash scene could influence subsequent proceedings and insurance claims.

“It’s important you don’t admit liability, but do write down a description of when, where and what happened,” he said.


Preventative measures like regular car services and tyre maintenance can reduce the likelihood of a breakdown. However, sometimes things don’t go to plan and it’s important to know what to do if your car breaks down.

As soon as you realise your car is at risk of breaking down, turn your hazard lights on and try to exit the road or highway as safely and as soon as possible, even if you have a flat tyre.

“It’s more important to be safe, so if you’re on the motorway it’s often safer to drive slowly to the next exit rather than just stopping in a dangerous spot – even if it damages your wheel,” Mr Tucker said.

If you’re on a highway and unable to exit safely, pull your vehicle onto the shoulder of the road or as far away from traffic as possible.

If you are on an urban road either turn into a side street, move from a bend to a straight road or from the top of a hill to the bottom depending on where you are. But it’s important to remember that whichever of the above situations you find yourself in, only move if it is safe to do so.

Once parked, check it’s safe to exit the vehicle and if so, get out on the side facing away from traffic and move behind the barrier or as far from the road as possible.

“It’s just about getting off the road and staying off it,” Mr Tucker said.

If it’s not safe to get out (bad weather, lots of traffic or late at night), stay in the car and keep your seatbelt on.

You can then call your emergency contacts such as roadside assistance, friends or family. Already having these numbers in your phone will help you out in a stressful situation.

A helpful number is the Department of Main Roads and Transport’s road incident reporting line – 13 19 40.  The Emergency Plus app is also great as you can use it without a phone signal and it identifies the location of your crash or breakdown so you can let the operator know where you are.

If someone else has a crash or breakdown, give the scene a wide berth or slow down safely so you don’t end up in a crash yourself.

“If you come across a broken down vehicle or a roadside assistance, emergency or incident response vehicle at the side of the road you need to move over to another lane if you can and slow down to help keep everyone safe,” Mr Tucker said.


  1. A great way to remember what to do in a breakdown or crash is HazMAP:
  2. Hazards lights: This tells other road users something is wrong.
  3. Move the vehicle: Where is the safest place – can you limp the car to the next exit, quiet side street or shoulder of the road?
  4. Assess: If you will stay in the car or get out.
    • If you stay in, then keep your seatbelt on.
    • Stay in if there is bad weather, lots of traffic or late at night.
    • If you get out, provided it is safe to do so, then have an escape plan such as standing behind the guardrail or far away from the road.
    • Get out if your hazard lights are not working.
  5. Phone someone: Call your pre-saved breakdown or crash contacts for help and if in danger, call emergency services on 000.