Million ‘sitting Ducks’ On The Road(1)

09 February 2012

New research(1) from Sainsbury’s car insurance reveals that in the last 12 months around 1.9 million drivers and passengers have put their safety at risk by remaining in their vehicle on the hard shoulder of the motorway, after breaking down. ‘Sitting ducks’, those people who remain in their cars on the hard shoulder, while waiting for assistance, risk being hit at high speed should an accident occur on the carriageway.


The research(1) revealed that over 3.5 million people have been in a car that broke down on a motorway in the last 12 months alone.  The Government’s Highways Agency recommends that occupants of a car that has stopped on the hard shoulder should immediately exit the vehicle via the left passengers’ side. Yet the research(1) suggests that over half (54%) of these travellers waited inside the vehicle, and more than one in ten (12%) wrongly believed it was the official guidance to do so.


A further 20% did not leave the vehicle because it was cold or wet outside, while 15% wanted to remain in the comfort of their seats. Nine per cent wanted to wait for assistance in the car where they could be entertained by music or in-car DVD players.      


Ben Tyte, Head of Sainsbury’s car insurance said: “It may seem sensible to avoid poor weather and keep the kids entertained in the car, but motorists who do not evacuate their vehicle when they break down on the hard shoulder are taking a big risk. The prospect of an accident whilst travelling at speed is frightening enough, but the impact of being stationary and hit by another vehicle could be catastrophic.


“We are therefore advising anyone who has broken down on the hard shoulder to safely exit from the passenger side of the car, remain as far away from the road side, call for assistance, and wait for them to arrive.”


Worryingly, the research(1) reveals that motorists are using the hard shoulder of the motorway for things that they shouldn’t be, including to make phone calls and texts (1.7 million); use the internet via their smartphone (around 582,000); check a map (over 1.3 million); and over 890,000 stopped to programme their satnav. A further 890,000 motorists were caught short on the motorway and stopped their vehicle on the hard shoulder to go to the toilet.       


Ben added: “Drivers must only use the hard shoulder if they have broken down, in an emergency, or if they have been told to stop by the police – using it for any other reason is an offence and you could face prosecution. The penalty could range from anything from a police warning or caution to disqualification and/or penalty points, so it’s a real concern that so many motorists have used the hard shoulder for things such as using their phone or programming their satnav.


“To ensure they have a safe journey, motorists should ensure they are fully prepared for their journey before they set off and know what to do should they break down. If they need to stop for any reason that is not an emergency, they should do so at the nearest service station. And for peace of mind, motorists should have a good quality breakdown cover so that should they come across any problems they can call for assistance.” 


If you have a problem with your car and you are not able to leave the motorway, safely navigate your vehicle to the hard shoulder and park it as far left as possible. Make sure your wheels are turned to the left, away from passing traffic in case your car rolls forward. You should put on your hazard warning lights to alert other motorists and exit the vehicle via passenger doors on the left hand sideIf you have breakdown cover and are using your mobile to contact the organisation, make sure you do so away from the carriageway.


Ben commented: “It’s crucial that safety is front of mind if you break down on the motorway so you and any passengers should vacate your car. However, if you or any passengers feel at risk, for example from another person, you should remain in your car but on the left hand side, with seatbelts fastened and doors locked, then exit the vehicle again once the risk has passed.


“In addition, you should not put yourself in danger by attempting even simple repairs yourself; you should wait for assistance and remain on the verge until you are advised you can drive your car again.”


New Sainsbury’s car insurance customers taking out a policy before 9th April could benefit from free breakdown assistance for one year(2), up to 20% discount (offer ends 8th February)(3) on their premium and double Nectar points on all their Sainsbury’s shopping and fuel for two years(4). The breakdown cover includes a number of benefits, providing peace of mind that you and your family won’t be left stranded should your car break down, such as free labour for roadside repairs and free recovery service to a repairer within ten miles. In addition, should you be unable to reach friends and family from the roadside, the breakdown service will ensure that a message reaches them to advise that your car has broken down and that help is on the way.


For more information on what to do if you break down on the motorway, visit the Government’s Travel and Transport website.


For further information on Sainsbury’s car insurance, call0800 092 9459, visit or pick up a leaflet in store.


For further information, please contact:

Ian Morris / Tom Wilson

Citigate Dewe Rogerson

020 7638 9571


Notes to editors:


(1) Based on a survey of 2011 UK based adults conducted by VisionCritical research on behalf of Sainsbury’s Finance on 5th-6th 2012

(2) Terms and conditions and exclusions apply,

(3) At least 10% of Nectar customers who are Sainsbury’s shoppers will achieve the maximum discount of 20%. Offer is available up to and including 8th February, after this date offer reverts to maximum discount of 15%. Terms and conditions and exclusions apply,

(4) Only available to Nectar card holders. Nectar card number must be quoted at the time of purchase to receive this offer. Other terms and conditions apply, see
Bonus Nectar points subject to a monthly maximum of 2,500 points per qualifying product type per month.



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About RBS Insurance

RBS Insurance Group is the number one car and home insurer in the UK(based on policies in force 2010) and is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Headquartered in Bromley, Kent, it has operations in the UK, Germany and Italy.

It provides a wide range of general insurance products to consumers through a number of well known brands including; Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. It also provides insurance services for third party brands, through its UKI Partnerships division.  In the commercial sector, its NIG and Direct Line for Business operations provide insurance products for businesses via brokers or direct respectively.

In addition to insurance services, RBS Insurance continues to provide support and reassurance to millions of UK motorists through its Green Flag breakdown recovery service and Tracker stolen vehicle recovery and telematics business.


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