What’s The Best Way To Handle A Freeway Breakdown?

It’s been a long running debate here in Houston. Do you stay in your car or get out?

Dinah Massie is Interim Director of Transtar, Harris County’s traffic management facility. And she’s seen plenty of crashes on local roads that start with a disabled vehicle.

“We’ve seen people being killed outside their vehicles when the vehicle is pushed into them,” says Massie. “I can think of three instances in the last couple of years.”

Massie says if you’re outside next to rushing traffic you have absolutely nothing to protect you, with no guarantee that other drivers are paying attention. And if you’re hit while standing on the shoulder of an elevated roadway, the guard rails may not do much to keep you from getting knocked over the side.

“If you’ve got cars moving past you at varying speeds and drivers with varying attention levels you’re much safer in that hard shell around you,” explains Massie.

So if you find yourself broken down on the shoulder or the main lanes, Massie says the best thing to do is stay put.

“The best thing is to make sure you’re communicating as well as you possibly can with the drivers around you,” adds Massie. “That’s why you want the flashers on, that’s why you want to be buckled up. That’s why you want to call for help.”

Massie says in 2017, there were more than 30,000 stalled or disabled vehicles on local roadways that required assistance. According to the Harris County Institute of Forensic Sciences, close to 75% of fatalities involving disabled vehicles happen while the driver is standing outside.

If you need to call for roadside assistance, the number for the SAFEClear program is (713) 881-3333.  Massie says if someone is injured call 911.


Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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