What to do if you have a car breakdown while on the road

car-breakdownIf you’re driving along and suddenly have a flat tire or some other car malfunction, it can be pretty unnerving, even downright scary if you’re on a highway or a remote location. The main thing to do in a car breakdown is to keep calm and get your vehicle safely off the road.  You can reduce the stress and uncertainty by planning for an emergency in advance so you’ll know just what to do.

Here are some tips we’ve amassed from experts.

Be prepared before you hit the road:

  • Be sure to have your phone fully charged when taking road trips
  • Have flares or reflective triangles in your trunk so you can have a way to indicate your car is in distress
  • Consider buying a cheap reflective vest to keep tucked under a seat so you would be visible if you do need to leave the car
  • Keep an emergency kit with seasonal supplies in your trunk
  • Have a plan in advance of what you’d do and who you’d call if you were to break down. Do you have an emergency road service plan or an auto-installed service? Does your insurer offer service? Or do you have an app to access emergency service? Plan in advance and keep phone numbers and any procedures or coverage rules in your glove compartment.
  • Learn about any state emergency road services. For example, Mass DOT has a Highway Assistance Patrol sponsored by MAPFRE Insurance. Here’s a list of state-by-state cellphone highway emergency assistance numbers.

If your car breaks down:

  • Put on your emergency/hazard lights at the first sign of trouble
  • Stay calm, slow down and get your car off the road. If possible, pull off at an exit, a street, or pull over to a breakdown lane
  • Pull as far off the road as is safe – keep emergency/hazard lights on. If it’s night time, turn on your interior light or flashlights
  • If you can safely do so, pop the hood or deploy flares or triangles to alert other drivers. Exit the door that is away from traffic – most likely on the passenger side
  • Do not stand in the road by your car; do not flag down other vehicles
  • In most circumstances, waiting in the vehicle with locked doors is safer than standing in the road, but you may need to use your best judgement depending on the specific location and situation, If you must wait outside, remove yourself from traffic and wait on the other side of the guardrail.
  • Call for help. If you aren’t sure of the exact location, your smart phone GPS may help. If you don’t have a roadside assistance plan, call state police.
  • If someone stops, crack your window enough to ask them to call the police for you
  • Wait for help. Avoid walking for help unless there is no other choice, and do so with extreme caution.

AAA has an in-depth guide covering trip planing, emergency supplies you should have on hand, and in-depth advice about what to do if you break down. Of course, their advice also focuses on how to reach them and what to expect – but even if you don’t have AAA, the guide has great information: What to do when your vehicle breaks down (PDF)

A summary of the main steps are:

  • Note your vehicle’s location
  • Assess your vehicle’s operating problem
  • Pull off the road
  • -What to do if you can’t pull off the road
  • Alert other motorists
  • Communicate your situation
  • Remain with your vehicle

The remaining tips have to do with AAA’s road service – what to expect, etc.

Consumer Reports has a recent article on Roadside Assistance: Who You Gonna Call? It covers apps, roadside services and insurers and where to get help when you break down. Another handy recent article is Hidden helpers in your phone, which covers some road travel apps.

Fall foliage extravaganza: ideas for your weekend

winding road in foliageThe upcoming weekend forecast is for warm and glorious weather here in New England, a perfect time for getting out to enjoy the foliage. There’s leaf peeping, apple picking, corn mazes, pumpkin festivals, country fairs and more – we’ve gathered some resources to help you make the most of the nice weather.

Yankee Foliage offers an excellent live foliage map and an extensive selection of suggested foliage drives. They also suggest the 5 Best Pumpkin Festivals in New England.

New England Destinations is a good local guide, offering many ideas for the fall season, including a list of activities for September and October. They also offer their own selection for foliage drives, as well as foliage maps and hotlines.

For more ideas, here are the official state tourism bureaus

If you want current tracking of the weather in this or any other season, Twitter can be a very fun way to do that. Meteorologists have a strong and active presence — many issue updated foliage reports and photos along with the weather. We have a list of New England Weather Resources on Twitter that you can follow.

If you’re heading out for drives, we issue our seasonal caution to be alert for deer and moose. The Insurance Information Institute reminds us that fall is peak season for deer and auto collisions. “Deer migration and mating season generally runs from October through December, and causes a dramatic spike in the movement of deer population. As a result, more deer-vehicle collisions occur in this period than at any other time of year.” Plus, in northern New England, you need to be on the lookout for moose.

Ideas for New England foliage drives – but be careful of deer-vehicle collisions!

New England fall foliage

The Foliage Network allows you to look up weekly reports for the northeast or other areas of the country. They provide weekly maps like the one below that visually depict peak foliage by state, as well as a “leaf drop” map. As we head into Columbus Day weekend, their recent report looks promising: “Throughout the Northeast, fall color ranges from moderate (31% – 60% change) to peak, with some of the highest elevations in northern portions of New York, New Hampshire and Maine now just past peak.”

via www.foliagereport.comYankee Magazine offers many resources for enjoying the fall foliage season in New England – in fact, they have a dedicated site, Yankee Foliage, which offers a live foliage map and an extensive selection of suggested foliage drives.

We also like some of their other “best of” suggestions for the fall:

If you head out for a drive this weekend, be aware that roads will be crowded and after the rains, they may be wet or slippery with fallen leaves. And the Insurance Information Institute reminds us that fall is peak season for deer and auto collisions. “Deer migration and mating season generally runs from October through December, and causes a dramatic spike in the movement of deer population. As a result, more deer-vehicle collisions occur in this period than at any other time of year.” Plus, in northern New England, you need to be on the lookout for moose.

New England summer toolkit – road trips & local treasures

Why not stay local this summer and enjoy all the treasures that New England has to offer? We’ve compiled some tips & tools to get you on your way.

First and foremost, before you hit the road, check Gas Buddy and fueleconomy.gov to get the best gas prices. And make sure that your car is in tip-top shape: Consumer Reports offers a great guide to summer road travel with tips for family travel, maintenance and vehicle prep, fuel economy, travel gear, safety & more.

Here are some ideas of where to go:

Find New England Beaches, Whale Watching tours and some great cycling routes – all these, and many more ideas at Discover New England.

Yankee Magazine is a local favorite with great information and ideas for local travel and events. Eat healthy, eat local by finding the best New England Farmers’ markets – pair your veggies with some seafood – here are the 5 best tips for cooking lobster at home. On the road, check out some “only in New England” landmarks – or just explore the Best of New England with the 2013 Editor’s Choice Awards.

If you want to leave the car behind and go by foot, check out Hike New England to explore more than 200 trail reports for detailed guides that include a description of the hike, trail distances, a difficulty rating, and driving directions; often photos or trail maps are also provided.

Boston.com offers 25 things to do under $25 and many other ideas in Explore New England.

If your travels include your pet, check out pet friendly New England lodgings. The Boston Globe recently highlighted a pick of pet friendly choices in New England. Get more pet-friendly trip help from Boston.com.

Have safe and fun wanderings – and don’t forget to load your insurance agent’s telephone number in your mobile phone, just in case!

Staying Cyber Safe During Your Vacations

June is Online Safety Awareness Month – good timing since we are approaching peak vacation season, it’s worth setting aside a few minutes to take stock of your mobile computing safety. As you travel, every place from coffee shops to hotels will compete for your business by touting the availability of free WiFi and high-speed internet access – a benefit that is great anywhere, but that is particularly valuable when you leave the country. But when using those networks, have you ever stopped to think about how secure those connections are? And even if you are on a secure network — one that requires a log in — you may still be exposed to others who are using that same network. Could that teen sitting near you be practicing hacking skills? Could the surfer at the corner table be looking to steal your identity? Others on the same network can access readily available tools to intercept unencrypted data that is passing over networks. Your session could even be hijacked. On a public network, you must use precautions when transmitting any information that is personal, financial, or confidential in nature.
Even people who take every precaution on home and work computers can be fairly cavalier when it comes to mobile devices – it’s easy to forget that our phones and tablets are really computers and subject to the same security risks. Lifehacker has a good article on how to stay safe on public wi-fi networks – explaining how to turn off Sharing and enable your firewall on various devices, and how to automate your public WiFi security settings. It also suggests using SSL whenever possible and explains what this means and how to do it. Another suggestion is to set up a Virtual Private Network (VPN). ArsTechnica talks more about VPNs and other security issues at public WiFi hotspot.
Here are more tips from experts:
Tips for Using Public Wi-Fi Networks – from On Guard Online
Four safety tips for using Wi-Fi from Microsoft
Security Using High-Speed Internet at Hotels
Identity Protection Tips for the Summer Traveler