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What do I do if my car stalls on the highway?

Here’s what you can do to stay safe, avoid being rear-ended or involved in a car accidents if your engine dies or your car stalls


Last week, there was a tragic, fatal car accident caused by a stalled car on the Lodge Freeway in Southfield, MI that ended up trapping thousands of drivers on the road during the busy morning commute.

A vehicle was stalled in the center lane when it was struck from behind by a second vehicle, on northbound M-10 just west of Telegraph Road in Southfield. The driver of the stalled vehicle, 23-year-old- Latavia Coker, was killed instantly, while the second driver — who was reportedly speeding and didn’t apply the brakes — received very minor injuries, according to published reports.

This awful wreck is a reminder of just how dangerous this can be if your car ever stalls on the highway. Some of the most horrific automobile accident cases that our own attorneys have litigated have involved cars that were stopped or stalled on the road or on the shoulder with hazards on. These can be incredible dangerous situations, so today our auto attorneys have put together some suggestions for how to stay safe if this happens to you. And while we agree with the video and advice below, remember to avoid pulling over to the shoulder of roads at all while driving unless it is a dire emergency, or unless you don’t have a choice. Always pull off the highway at an exit if you want to stop and it is a non-emergency.

What to do when your car stalls

Here’s a stalled vehicle PSA, from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) that I found that gives a helpful overview of what to do when you are driving a stalled car:

In short, if your car stalls while you’re driving on the highway, it’s important to keep your eyes on the road and pull as far out of the travel lanes, if that is at all possible.

Then, turn on your emergency flashers and call the 9-1-1 for help. They can dispatch the police officers who patrol the correct jurisdiction. Often, it will be the Michigan State Police if you’re on the highway.

The safest place you can be is buckled in your vehicle, according to MDOT. This way you’re out of the way of distracted drivers, large commercial motor vehicles and speeding traffic.

If you make the decision to leave your car, look very carefully to make sure traffic is clear, and get as far away from the roadway as possible.

What does it feel like if your car is stalling?

Remember, if engine quits while you’re under way, the car will lose power steering and eventually, its power brakes. But you can still guide and stop the car, even if it takes longer and requires more effort. The steering will feel increasingly heavier, but it’s still possible to steer.

You should also expect the power boost for the brakes to disappear after one or two applications, so try to stop as soon as you can, using the emergency brake if necessary, according to

A vehicle can lose engine power for many reasons, from running out of gas to having a faulty fuel pump, alternator or other failure. There’s also the case of the faulty GM ignition switch, which caused ignitions to slip from “run” to “accessory” or “off” positions while being driven. In turn, vehicles on the recall list risked stalling, shutting down power brakes and power steering and preventing airbags from deploying. In all, there were 124 fatalities, 274 injuries and 2.6 million General Motors vehicles recalled, according to

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Blog Author Steven M. Gursten
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