The hard shoulder of a motorway can be a very dangerous place. Many people are injured or even killed needlessly every year after stopping on the hard shoulder for reasons which were totally inappropriate. Some people still seem to think that it is just a handy parking spot next to the motorway! The hard shoulder has a specific purpose, and knowing when you can use it and how you should use it, is important if you want to stay safe.
What the hard shoulder is not for
Never use the hard shoulder for making calls on your mobile, going to toilet or having a snack! If you need to do any of these things then make your way to the nearest motorway services or exit to do it. You must only use it if you are directed to do so, have some kind of emergency, you break down, or you are directed to stop by the police.
If you are in a traffic jam and close to your exit on the motorway, do not use the hard shoulder as a short cut. Only emergency vehicles and motorway maintenance vehicles are allowed to drive on the hard shoulder. If there is a traffic queue because of an accident and your vehicle is on the hard shoulder, you could prevent an ambulance from getting to the scene.
Break downs and emergencies
If you pull on to the hard shoulder because you have an emergency or you've broken down, keep your vehicle as far to the left as possible and put your hazard lights on. Bear in mind that there may be debris lying around that could puncture your tyres.
Get out of your vehicle on the left hand side if you can. If you have to get out on the right hand side be extremely careful as you will be close to fast moving traffic. Once you are out of the vehicle get some distance the other side of the crash barrier and either walk to the nearest emergency phone or use your mobile to call for assistance.
Using a roadside emergency phone is actually preferable to using a mobile because the traffic control centre will know exactly where you are, and it will make it easier for them to direct the recovery or roadside assistance vehicles to the right place.
If you are a woman and feel vulnerable or threatened in any way, you should stay in your car, lock the doors and call the police on your mobile phone. Try to describe your location to them as best you can, and they will send a police patrol vehicle. If the threat goes away, you should leave the vehicle and get behind the crash barrier.
Don't accept lifts from strangers, no matter how genuine they may appear to be.
Don't be tempted to start doing any repairs to your vehicle on the hard shoulder, it is too dangerous. Stay behind the barrier and call for assistance.
If you are able to rejoin the motorway, you can build up your speed on the hard shoulder before indicating and safely merging with the traffic.
If you have been involved in a car accident that was not your fault, we can help you get a free replacement vehicle, car repairs, legal assistance and injury compensation. Please give us a call on 02392 484 244 or start your free claim enquiry online using the button below, and one of our experienced claims advisors will be happy to assist you.