How to properly position warning triangles in the event of a breakdown or accident

Nobody likes to be stranded on the road, and nobody wants to have an accident. If you have a breakdown or an accident on the road, for your own safety and the safety of other road users, you must place the safety triangles. You are legally obliged to carry triangles in your car and they are standard equipment of any car for decades, by the way. Do you know where to place these triangles and at what distance from your car? What precautions should you take when installing these triangles? In this article we will clear all your doubts about it.

1) If possible, take your car off the road or move it as far away as possible.

If your car has left you stranded, for whatever reason, try to move it as far away from the flow of traffic as possible. We understand that this is not always possible, but if you feel that your car is going to leave you stranded, activate the emergency flashers and try to pull over to the right side of the road. If possible and safe, move it off the road or as far away from the flow of traffic as possible. If you are on a highway or freeway, move it to the shoulder and stick it to the guardrails. Remember that cars are coming at high speed and are unaware of your position. The priority is to ensure everyone’s safety.

The emergency triangles are reflective, allowing other drivers to see them properly even at night.

The same applies if you have had an accident, after which you should follow the PAS (protect, aid, rescue) protocol. The first step is to protect, signaling the accident so that other drivers are warned well in advance. Now, before you even get out of the car, the first thing you should do is put on your high visibility vest, which you should keep in a door or glove compartment. Putting on the vest is not only a matter of safety, but also of legality: if you do not wear it you may be fined by the Guardia Civil de Tráfico or the equivalent body.

Its function is as vital as that of the emergency triangles: that other drivers see you properly. Unfortunately, many drivers or passengers have died as a result of being run over after accidents and breakdowns – and with the vests, this risk is minimized. If you have to call for assistance, a family member or the police, do so after you have placed the triangles, not before. The main thing at this point, we insist, is to ensure your proper visibility to other road users.

2) Where and how should I place the safety triangles?

On two-way roads – such as a conventional highway, whether it has two or three lanes – you should place two triangles. They should be placed 50 meters from your car, provided that a good visibility of your car is guaranteed from 100 meters. The aim is for a driver to see it at least 150 meters before the position of the damaged/accident car, and give him/her time to react appropriately, braking and avoiding the obstacle. You should place a triangle behind the car, 50 meters away, and another one in front, at the same distance. The reason is to make your car visible in both directions of traffic.

If you are behind a crest change or a curve, you should place the triangle before the curve to ensure that it is visible at least 100 meters away from your car.

The triangle is placed perpendicular to the traffic – so that it reflects the light well – and must be visible to drivers. Do not place it behind a sign or a bush. If your car is at an elevation change or after a curve, you may need to place it at a greater distance from the car, if that ensures sufficient anticipation for other drivers. If you place it next to your car, after the curve, or after the change of gradient, it will not be fulfilling its function and you will be exposing yourself to a serious risk. Now, how should I place them on highways and freeways?

On roads with two lanes in each direction – or one-way – the same rules apply, with the exception that you should only place a triangle behind the car – for obvious reasons, there will be no cars coming in the opposite direction. If you are driving and see an emergency triangle on the road, slow down, pay close attention, and if you can, move your car away from the shoulder where the car is parked.

3) Where are the emergency triangles stored in my car?

Normally, the triangles are kept in the cargo area of the car. Some cars integrate them in the trunk lid itself, or behind a plastic cover. Other cars place them under the trunk floor, or next to the spare tire – or even in the spare tire well. Although the location of the triangles is not universal, it is usually indicated. If in doubt, your car’s owner’s manual will tell you where to find them. Before leaving the car to look for the triangles, if you don’t know where they are, consult the manual – which will most likely be in your glove compartment.

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