When I was a college student, I was traveling home on a rural road late at night when I noticed I was quickly approaching a very slow-moving car. It seemed to be lost or having mechanical issues. I slowed down, but before I knew what had happened, the other car came to a screeching stop and I rear-ended it. I was shaken up but relieved it was only a fender bender. Then the doors opened, and two men got out, talked briefly, and then headed towards my car. My relief was instantly gone, and I was terrified and alone.
I’m a mother now, much wiser, and usually in bed before 11:00! But I still drive alone at night and have a son and two daughters that do too. So, I wanted to survey our auto insurance team here at NNINS to find the smartest advice for these situations. After all, we've got decades of experience helping members through tough roadside issues.
Here are our three tried and true rules for safety:
#1 Your cell phone is your best friend- keep it charged!
If it desperately needs a charge, you still should be able to use the car’s battery to make an emergency call, even if your car won’t start. Just turn your key to the second or third ignition position. There are also some reliable backup batteries available to keep with you when you're traveling. If you can’t get a signal, pretend to be talking to someone if a stranger stops.
We highly recommend you prepare ahead of time by letting someone know when you leave and when you get home and permanently share your phone's location with a family member. You can share your phone's locations from your settings in Apple IOS and Android phones. You can also share your location easily using Google Maps. Just open the app (or download it (android, Apple), then:
- The blue pin icon marks your location (you must have your location turned on in your phone's settings)
- Tap the blue pin and tap "Share location".
- Choose how to share via text or email.
#2 Never accept unofficial help.
No matter how kind or harmless a “good Samaritan” seems, our times call for caution. If someone approaches you, stay in your locked car and keep your window closed. The only help you should accept from a stranger is a phone call to 911. Crack your window and ask for them to call. Don’t leave the safety of your car until an emergency responder or your roadside assistance arrives.
#3 An unmarked car with a flashing light may not be safe.
From time to time, you hear news stories about women being pulled over by a man impersonating a police officer. If you get pulled over by an unmarked police car, Goochland County Sheriff's Office recommends the following:
Slowly & safely pull over
Use the turn signal and proceed to a safe location along the right side of the road. If the area appears unsafe or dangerous, continue driving until you find a safe, well-lit place to stop. You can turn on your hazard lights to indicate you see the officer. If it's clear that you intend to pull over, most officers will understand.
If the officer is driving an unmarked car, call 911 to verify that the unmarked vehicle pulling you over is an on-duty officer. You can also ask to see the officer's badge and photo ID. If the officer won't present it, request to call for another officer. Always contact 911 if the situation appears to be threatening or unsafe. You can also now text 911 in most parts of Virginia if you can't call.
TIP: Officers will never give you the option of paying the ticket on the side of the road.
Follow the officer's instructions
Once you have verified the officer's identity, roll down the window and place both hands on the steering wheel. Do exactly what the officer asks, including providing your license and registration once requested. Alert the officer before reaching into the backseat, the glove compartment, or into a purse or other bag.
Talk to the officer in a calm manner.
Return to the road safely
Once the officer has instructed that you are free to leave, use your turn signal and look for oncoming traffic. Merge slowly onto the road when it’s safe. Remember to buckle up.
Be proactive! Prevent roadside emergencies with our expert safe driving tips. If you get stranded with your family, read about how to keep your kids safe on the side of the road.
I wish I could tell my younger self what I know now. That night long ago, cell phones weren't around. Thankfully, I was smart enough to exchange insurance information with the other driver through a slightly cracked window. I was also able to drive my car away from the accident. If you aren’t so lucky and find yourself alone on the side of Virginia roads, follow our three safety rules so you too can stay safe and sound.
Learn more about car insurance in Virginia