Ask a Trooper: Breaking Down on the Highway

Warmer weather is (hopefully) right around the corner! Less rain usually means a lot more people will be hitting the road for some much needed vacation in the sun.

While the Washington State Patrol hopes you have an easy and smooth trip, we want you to be aware of the possibility that your vehicle may break down on the highway.

So what are you supposed to do if you find yourself in car trouble?

The first step is to pull your vehicle over to the right shoulder, completely off the freeway if possible. If you can’t make it over to the right side, make every effort to safely pull over to whichever shoulder is closest to you.

Once you’re safely off the road, you can check on your vehicle. If the issue is something you’re capable of fixing, like a flat tire for example, you may go ahead and do so before getting back on the road. However, if the issue isn’t something you can easily fix, please call your local roadside assistance number (if applicable) and call 911 to inform dispatch of your situation. If needed, a communications officer can either send a trooper to assist you or may call you a tow truck.

The WSP wants to avoid people abandoning their vehicles on major highways for many reasons.

Washington State Patrol Lieutenant T. Sharff explains, “It is important for the public to know the risks of leaving their vehicles abandoned on the freeways. The vehicle could be broken into, vandalized, or stolen by criminals pursuing the easy target. It could also be hit by an inattentive driver that drifts onto the shoulder causing costly damage. And depending on the jurisdiction, the vehicle could be impounded with costly fees that the owner would have to pay when they retrieve it.”

If your vehicle is in a tow away zone (which are marked by signs on the freeway), there is a possibility it could be immediately towed. If your car is left abandoned for more than 24 hours in a non-tow away zone, it could also be impounded. If you ever do find yourself in a situation where your car is impounded, you can contact the local district WSP HQ in which you left your vehicle to find out where it has been towed.

The highway can be a dangerous place, especially if you’re experiencing vehicle trouble. Remember, calling 9-1-1 ensures that you will get the help you need and leaving your vehicle on the side of the road is never a safe idea.

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