Vehicle safety checks

You wouldn’t fly without the proper checks being carried out, so why drive without them?

Every year Highways England traffic officers deal with more than 85,000 breakdowns on the roads they patrol.

Evidence shows that more than 40 percent of these breakdowns were caused by vehicles running out of fuel, poor tyre maintenance, power loss and engine trouble.

Highways England recommend carrying out a few quick and easy checks to ensure you and your vehicle are safely equipped to drive.

Having a roadworthy vehicle can also save you time and money in the future.

Advice on what to check

You and your journey

  • Make sure you are well rested and are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Plan your route before leaving, and identify opportunities for you to take a break during your journey.
  • You can check the latest traffic conditions from Traffic England.

Tyre tread

  • It is a legal requirement that each of your tyres has a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm. Driving without the legally required amount of tread can adversely affect your grip, braking distance and steering.
  • If you are stopped by the police and found with illegal tyres, you could receive a £2,500 fine and 3 penalty points per tyre.

Tyre pressure

  • Driving with underinflated or overinflated tyres can adversely affect your braking distance, steering, fuel efficiency and the lifetime of your tyres.

Fuel level

  • In 2015, there were more than 7,000 breakdown incidents due to vehicles running out of fuel.
  • Always keep your tank at least one-quarter full to avoid running out on your journey.
  • You can be issued a Fixed Penalty Notice in some locations if your breakdown was foreseeable, such as running out of fuel.

Oil level

  • Maintaining the correct oil level is essential as the oil lubricates, cleans, cools and protects the moving parts of your engine, preventing your engine from seizing up and breaking down.

Water level

  • To ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear any debris or dirt off your windscreen.


  • Your lights are not only essential for you, they are also essential for other drivers to understand how you are driving your vehicle and how you intend to manoeuvre.

What to do when you breakdown on a motorway

Highways England advises that all drivers have a breakdown insurance policy and that you keep the details of this with you in your vehicle at all times.

  • If your vehicle is damaged or experiencing difficulties, always try to exit the motorway at the nearest junction.
  • If that’s not possible, move into the nearest place of safety and always switch on your hazard warning lights. On most motorways this will be the hard shoulder or an emergency refuge area.
  • If you can’t move to the hard shoulder or emergency refuge area, get as close to the nearside verge as possible.
  • If you feel you are able to exit your vehicle safely, consider exiting via the nearside (left hand) door. You should then contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephones that are provided at regular intervals on the motorway and wait behind the safety barrier – if there is one and it’s safe to do so.
  • If it’s not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, or there is no other place of relative safety to wait, then you should stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on and dial 999 if you have access to a working mobile phone.