What to do if you breakdown, have an accident or your car is damaged/stolen

Would you know what to do in the event of your car breaking down? Or if you had an accident? What about if your car is maliciously damaged or stolen? We're here to give you some of the basic steps you can take to ensure yourself and your car are taken care of in the most effective way possible.

What to do in the event of a breakdown

​Breaking down can put you in a dangerous situation as well as being a frustration, particularly if you’re on a motorway. Here are some of the steps you should take to ensure you stay safe in the event of a breakdown.

  • Make sure you’re in a safe place. Move your vehicle off the road (if possible), or pull into the hard shoulder if you’re on a motorway and can’t turn off at the next exit. Try to pull in as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.
  • Put your hazard warning lights on (check your vehicle handbook if you're unsure where the button is). If it’s dark or foggy, keep your headlights on too.
  • Stay well away from any moving traffic. Usually, it's safest to get out of your car (using the doors facing away from passing traffic) and wait behind a barrier. If you’re on a motorway, move up the banking if you can and leave any animals in the car.
  • If you have a reflective jacket, put it on.
  • If you're on a motorway, DON'T put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder as it's not safe. If you're on a road and it is safe to do so, put a warning triangle at least 45 meters behind your vehicle.
  • Call a breakdown service. If you're on a motorway, don't attempt even a simple repair. If you do not have a mobile phone available, walk to an emergency phone at the side of the carriageway - the phone is free and will connect you to the police

Breakdown Services

Manufacturer breakdown services:

  • Suzuki Assistance: 0800 107 1155
  • Nissan Roadside Cover: 0330 123 1231
  • Subaru Roadside Assistance: 0800 777 127

Other breakdown services:

  • The AA: 0800 8877 6655
  • RAC: 0330 159 8743
  • Green Flag: 0800 400 600

What to do in the case of an accident

If you're unfortunately involved in a car accident, here are the steps you need to take to deal with it quickly and smoothly.

  • Stop your car, as failing to do so is an offence
  • Switch off the engine and turn on your hazard lights
  • Check for any injuries, either to yourself or your passengers. Call an ambulance if necessary
  • Call the police either on 999 or 101 depending on the situation
  • Give your details, including contact information to anyone else involved in the accident
  • Collect the details, including contact information from any other drivers, passengers or witnesses
  • Take photos of the damage and scene if necessary
  • Contact your insurance company

Car Insurance Claims

Make sure you tell your insurer about the accident as soon as you can. If you wait and fall outside of the specified time period, you could be left with a big bill to pay. How long you have to file an insurance claim will depend on your insurance provider. Make sure you read their terms and conditions carefully. If another vehicle is involved in the accident, your insurance company will want to know their nameaddress and contact detailsvehicle registration, and their car insurance company.

You should still inform your car insurance of an accident, even if you don't intend to make a claim.

Other information to collect from the accident

The following information may be important to collect at the scene:

  • The registrations of all vehicles involved, as well as make, model & colour
  • The time and date of the accident
  • A quick sketch showing the position of the vehicles involved if you're unable to take reference photos
  • A description of the weather conditions and/or road quality/lighting
  • A list of damage to vehicles and a description of any injuries sustained by drivers, passengers or pedestrians
  • Make a note of any dash cams which may provide useful video footage

What to do in the case of malicious damage/theft

Having your car broken into or stolen is not only a hassle, but can be quite distressing. Here are the steps to take if you find your vehicle damaged or missing because of theft.

  • If your vehicle has been stolen, tell the police and your insurance company straight away. In most cases it won't be an emergency so contact the police using the 101 number.
  • The time to dial 999 instead of 101 would be if a crime is currently taking place or has just been witnessed, if there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property
  • When you contact the police ensure you have your car registration, make, model and colour to hand
  • The police will provide you with a crime reference number which you'll need to pass over to your insurance company or to claim back vehicle tax.

Crime prevention

Most vehicle crime is preventable, so there are several steps you can take to deter it from happening. These include:

  • Removing anything from the car which could tempt a thief
  • Always ensure your car is locked by checking the doors
  • Don't leave windows or sunroofs open when you leave the car
  • Don't store items in the boot
  • Keep important documents relating to your vehicle at home and not with your vehicle
  • Take any removable equipment out of the car, such as stereos, sat navs, ipods or dash cams
  • Park in secure, well-lit areas where possible
  • Don't leave your car keys on view in your home and keep them away from doors and windows

You can also register your valuables at www.immobilise.com and security-mark them with your postcode and house number or vehicle registration number.

Immobilise is a free Home Office approved website which allows you to keep a record of all your valuable items.

No witness or no forensic interest items

If there is no obvious witness, forensic items of interest (such as blood, hair or clothing) or CCTV covering the incident then the phone operator will likely record the crime over the phone with you and provide you with a crime reference number. If your vehicle has been stolen then the police will enter your vehicle details into a database so if it is stopped by the police in future, or captured via a ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) device, the vehicle can be recovered and the perpetrators caught.

If your stolen vehicle is recovered, then the police will contact you. If it has, however, been used by the thieves in additional serious crimes then the police may need to retain it for several days to conduct forensic tests. You will need to contact your insurance company when the car is found so they can arrange the recovery and repair of it.

Potential witness or forensic interest items

If there are witnesses to your vehicle being damaged or stolen, or forensic evidence then the phone operator will arrange for an officer to attend the scene where they will take witness statements and collect any evidence.

Information included in this article is taken from several sources including the AA (https://www.theaa.com/breakdown-cover/advice/what-to-do-if-you-break-down), Which? (https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/new-and-used-cars/article/what-to-do-if-you-have-a-car-accident), Greater Manchester Victims' Services (https://www.gmvictims.org.uk/find-information/ive-been-affected-by/car-crime), Police.uk (https://www.police.uk/crime-prevention-advice/vehicle-crime/).