Male and female with two young children packing up red car.

Five times not to use the hard shoulder

Keeping your kids entertained can involve lots of car trips and days out. But even if they start misbehaving while you're on the motorway, no mum or dad should behave how two parents acted earlier of this year, when a child was found walking next to a stretch of the M4. Apparently, the occupants had given the child 'time out' for misbehaving.

Hard shoulders are not 'naughty steps'

It's a pretty shocking scenario, one which forced Highways England to publish a statement urging parents not to treat motorway hard shoulders as 'naughty steps'.

Simon Jones, regional director south east for Highways England, said: 'Drivers often think the hard shoulder is a safe place to stop but over 100 people are killed or injured on the hard shoulder every year. We don't want you to become one of those statistics; we want you to stay safe.'

As well as stopping off for some time out, here are five instances when they should NOT be used:

1. Stopping for a snack

With service stations aplenty on every stretch of motorway, there's no need to pull over on the hard shoulder for a snack.

2. Checking maps

Think you've taken a wrong turn? The hard shoulder isn't the place to set up the sat nav, check the map or make a phone call. Head to the nearest service station, or exit at the next junction and find a suitable and safe place to park up.

3. Toilet break

While it's not always possible to predict when nature will call, you can prevent you or your kids from needing the loo by not drinking too much ahead of your trip, and by spending a penny just before you set off.

4. Waiting for or responding to a text

No text is important enough to risk your life for.

5. Stretching the legs

It's really important for drivers to take regular breaks during long road trips, but these shouldn't take place at the side of the motorway. Stretch out at a service station, or come off the motorway and find somewhere suitable nearby.

How to use the hard shoulder safely

It's simple: hard shoulders should be used for emergencies only and when you don't have any other choice –ß i.e. if your car breaks down, a tyre blows or a trailer you're towing comes loose.

If you have to use the hard shoulder, you should:

  • Pull over as far left of the lane as possible and turn your steering wheel to the left
  • Switch on your hazards to warn other drivers (this is especially important at night)
  • Apply the handbrake and ensure all passengers exit via the left-hand doors
  • Stay as far back from the road as possible, behind the barrier
  • Find a marker to confirm your motorway position
  • Phone for assistance and wait with (but not next to) your car.

Hopefully you won't suffer a breakdown on the motorway, but it's always best to be prepared. As well as breakdown cover, taking out quality car insurance with Hastings Direct will help to keep you, your car and passengers safe on the road.

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