Highways England is urging drivers to be prepared at the start of the busiest time of the year for motorway breakdowns.

New data from the company shows more than 48,500 motorway breakdowns happened over the summer holiday period, between the final week of June and the first weekend of September last year.

Highways England is expecting to respond to an extra 700 breakdowns a week for the next ten weeks, taking the average number of motorway breakdowns each week to almost 5,000.

The first weekend in August was the busiest weekend for breakdowns on England’s motorways last year, closely followed by the last weekend in July, with one breakdown reported every two minutes as drivers set off on day trips and holidays.

Around a quarter of summer breakdowns are caused by punctures or other tyre issues. Vehicles running out of fuel and engines overheating other common reasons for breakdowns on motorways. Highways England is also advising drivers that regular car checks help avoid breakdowns:

• Check tyres. Before setting off on a long or significant journey, check your tyre pressures are suitable for the load and the condition of your tyres, including the spare. Look out for cuts or wear, and make sure the tyres have the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6mm.
• Check engine oil. Use your dipstick to check oil regularly and before any long journey, and top up if needed. Take your car back to the dealership if you’re topping up more than usual.
• Check water. To ensure you have good visibility, always keep your screen wash topped up so you can clear debris or dirt off your windscreen.
• Check lights. If your indicators, hazard lights, headlights, fog lights, reverse lights or brake lights are not functioning properly, you are putting yourself and your family at risk. In addition, light malfunctions can be a reason for your vehicle to fail its MOT.
• Check fuel. Before setting out, check your fuel levels and make sure you have enough to get to your destination.

In addition, Highways England has issued five basic safety tips to follow if your car does break down on a motorway:

• Get away from the traffic. Exit the motorway or get to an emergency area or hard shoulder and use the free phone provided.
• If that’s not possible, move left onto the verge.
• Get out of the left side of your car and behind the barrier if you can and it is safe to do so.
• Get help. Contact your breakdown provider or Highways England on 0300 123 5000.
• If you break down in moving traffic and cannot leave your car, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on and call 999.

“We want everyone to get to their destination safely and we can all play a part in that,” Richard Leonard, the Head of Road Safety at Highways England, said. “Highways England has done a lot of work to ease congestion on our motorways and make them safer, and our traffic officers are there to help get things moving if there’s a problem. But you should also make sure you know what to do if your vehicle does break down.

“We’re expecting to see a big increase in breakdowns over the next few weeks as drivers set out on longer journeys during the summer. So, we’re urging drivers to remember the basics of motorway driving, including carrying out simple vehicle checks before setting off, to help keep us all moving.”