I have been so fortunate to experience the kindness of strangers recently that I wanted to share my story with you.
After a long day, I was driving back home with my two young children and a two hour journey ahead of me. We had just joined the motorway when suddenly my car lost power. I was unable to get up to motorway speed, the best I could do was about 40 miles per hour. So I pulled over and turned off the ignition, restarted the engine and tried again. No joy, so I pulled over onto the hard shoulder again. I immediately put my hazard lights on and called my Dad who I had just left, and asked him to come to collect my boys and get them out of harms way. Only when you are completely stationary on the hard shoulder, do you realise how fast the other cars are passing you and what potential danger you are in.
I then called the AA who advised that I get my children out of the car using the left-hand side doors and move up the bank or stand behind the barrier. I happened to have pulled over right by a bank full of nettles with a big ditch next to it. So there was nowhere for me to stand with my children. All we could do is walk back along the hard shoulder so we were as far behind the car as possible. That way if a car were to hit our car it wouldn’t crash into us! I strapped my youngest son into the pram so he wouldn’t run into the motorway and held my eldest son’s hand with dear life.
Within minutes of me pulling over, a man stopped to asked if I needed any help. I said we were fine as I didn’t want to inconvenience him, and off he went. Another few minutes later two other men stopped. They didn’t ask me if I needed help, they just helped. They gave me a high vis jacket to wear and one to put over my pram in which my two year old was sitting. They spotted some bollards and put them out behind my car to warn passing traffic we were there. One of the chaps was from Network Rail and he gave us water to drink and helped keep us calm. They said they wouldn’t leave until my Dad arrived to take my children to safety. They showed me and my boys such kindness.
I was so relieved when I saw my Dad driving towards me. We safely got the boys in his car and within an hour of stopping the AA mechanic arrived. It wasn’t anything he could fix at the roadside but the mechanic ensured we were able to drive off to a local garage to get the part we needed. The mechanic went above and beyond to fix my car, dedicating his time and expertise to get us back on the road.
With the benefit of hindsight, I should have carried on to the next junction or service station and got off the fast flowing motorway. But I did not know what was wrong with my car and when a red engine light comes on, you think the worst.
Would you know what to do if this happened to you?
Sometimes in the heat of the moment, we are unable to think clearly. All I knew was that I needed to make sure my children were safe.
In the event of a breakdown on the motorway, this is the advice from the AA:
- Remember that the hard shoulder is only for emergencies, not for making calls, having a stretch or toilet stops. This is because it is so dangerous to stop on the hard shoulder.
- If it is an emergency and you cannot get off the motorway, pull on to the hard shoulder.
- Make sure you stop as far to the left as you can, with the wheels turned to the left.
- Put your hazard lights on. If it is dark or foggy, keep your sidelights on too.
- You and any passengers should get out of the vehicle using the left hand-side doors and move up the bank or stand behind the barrier. If there is no place to stand, like in my case, stand as far behind the car as you can.
- Leave animals in the car.
- Wear a reflective jacket if you have one. From now on I keep one in my driver side door compartment.
- Don’t put a warning triangle on the hard shoulder.
- Call your breakdown assistance.
- If you don’t have a mobile, walk to an emergency phone on your side of the carriageway; follow the arrows on the posts at the back of the hard shoulder – the phone is free and connects directly to the police.
- If you feel at risk from another person, return to your vehicle by a left-hand door and lock all doors. Leave your vehicle again as soon as you feel this danger has passed.
- If you have a disability which prevents you from following the above advice, keep your seatbelt on, switch on our hazard lights and use your mobile to call your breakdown assistance or emergency services.
- If you can’t get to the hard shoulder, stay in your vehicle unless you can be absolutely sure it is safe to leave it. Keep your seatbelt on, put your hazard lights on and call the emergency services.
It was such a stressful situation with the added worry of having my little ones with me, so I just want to say a big thank you to Del from Network Rail and the other man who stopped to help me. You didn’t need to stop, but it made all the difference to me and my boys. Thank you also to the AA mechanic, and of course to my lovely Daddy.
You were all my knights in shining armour that day.