Car Break Downs with a baby in tow – Being Prepared and how to Keep Calm & Carry On

Leyton’s Mumma Says…

Recently my car broke down with just me and my baby in, on the M1. And by that I mean driving at roughly (!) 70 mph in the third of 4 lanes on the M1 with 17 month old Leyton in the back babbling along when I noticed the car was slowing by itself. 60, 50, 40, 30… as I maneuvered into the inside lane anxiously, 25, 20… hazard lights on… ‘No Hard Shoulder for 100 Yards’ sign approaching and I thought that’s enough and swerved in to the hard shoulder before stopping the car. It was scary to say the least, especially when you hear of horror stories of lorries hitting stationary cars on the hard shoulder causing fatalities. The car ended up being towed as it’s cambelt had snapped, after some nice Highway Patrol Police stayed with me and wrapped Leyton in a foil blanket about 15m from my poor brum brum. I now know how valuable the advice I had was, and also know some new info which I will park somewhere in my brain in case I ever get so unfortunate to be in that situation again. Better to be prepared I say, as you never think it will happen to you. I have detailed my thoughts/ advice below to help others:


Things to carry in the car at all times, especially if travelling by car with a baby/ toddler:

o   Hi-vis jacket for you

o   Warm blanket for the baby

o   Warm waterproof coat for you and the baby

o   Power bank battery charger – I charge mine for 3 hours at home then carry in my handbag at all times, it will charge my phone fully from scratch

o   Phone, with your breakdown cover phone number and account info programmed in

o   Drink for you and baby

o   Snacks for you and baby

o   Small Toy/ book to entertain baby

o   Closed shoes/boots with good grip – the mud/grass by the hard shoulder is often a bit swampy or at the least uneven and you need to be able to walk away from your car. Chances are may break down when you least expect it and have your heels on!

o   Pushchair if you have a young child

o   Plastic backed picnic rug if you have to sit on the floor

o   Umbrella

o  First aid kit – I customised ours

o   Torch


Things to remember

  • You need to get away from your car as quickly as possible as it is not safe to remain in the vehicle – however I couldn’t hear my breakdown correspondent when I stepped outside the car as the passing traffic was so loud. I stayed in the car and was as quick as possible, but kept Leyton strapped into his car seat so he was secured in case my car got rear ended.
  • On all main roads there are normally rectangular/ square signs with the exact locationsign. I wasn’t aware of this, but there on the other side of the M1 was a sign in blue that read M1 then some letters and numbers, these are the coordinates to give to your Breakdown Correspondent. (It looks like this photo)
  • If you are on a ‘smaller’ road eg not an A road or motorway, are unsure where you are, and are in a vulnerable situation (eg dark, in the snow/ice/rain with your baby, late at night etc) then the Police told me you can actually phone the Police on 101 and ask them for your coordinates because if you turn the GPS on your phone thy can track it and you will have the precise location to give your Breakdown Cover. Bear in mind you should use this service responsibly and your breakdown service should be able to find you if you describe the route you were going on and any nearby landmarks. However considering you may have to stand outside 10-15m away from your car with your baby, if you are in a vulnerable situation then it is useful to know there is something else you can do.
  • The driver’s door of your car will be on the side with all the speeding traffic on all hard shoulders in the UK, therefore if you put your child’s carseat on this side too you will have difficulty getting them out in this emergency situation. Leyton was on the drivers side and I had to hurriedly move all my bags out the way and clamber through my car to get him out and carry him through the passenger back door. Not ideal, and I have now moved his carseat to the passenger side.
  • There is no reason to panic! If you pack most/ all the things in my above list you should be fine. I think I would have flapped and got flustered if I was on my own, however ironically I was calmer with Leyton because my Neanderthal Mummy Instincts kicked in and I went down my checklist in my head to get him to safety. You might surprise yourself that in an emergency situation, the information will all come back to you and you will do whatever is necessary to take your baby away from a potentially dangerous situation. I put my hazards on, phoned my breakdown cover, got my hi vis jacket on, got the pushchair out of the car and threw it over the crash barrier, got the changing bag and threw that over, got the baby all wrapped up and warm and carried him over the barrier, assembled the pushchair and we both walked 15m away from the car and waited. It took 45 minutes in all waiting hence the food, drink and distractions for your baby… the only thing I didn’t have at the time was a blanket as wasn’t expecting an outside excursion, but the Highway patrol arrived after 10 minutes of spotting me on a motorway camera and gave Leyton a foil blanket. You can’t go back into your car until the situation is safe, so it is worthwhile being prepared to stand out in the cold/rain/snow/heatwave/black of night with your baby for a while.

It all worked out ok (apart from the expensive car issues) but the main thing is we got away safely. Some of this may look over the top, however I kid you not being on the side of the motorway with a crying baby out in the cold is no joke especially when you know that fatalities happen every year from people parking on hard shoulders. But, get prepared, know your routes, put the radio on (or a nursery rhyme cd, or even your baby’s favourite book as an audio book!), stock up on fuel and I’m sure you’ll have a pleasant and safe journey!


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