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Roadside Safety

Roadside accidents involving pedestrians can be extremely deadly due to the high speed at which vehicles travel and the lack of protection offered to pedestrians. You may recall the story of a pedestrian who was struck and killed on I-495 near the Eisenhower Connector Friday, September 14, 2013. The victim left the car she was riding in to smoke a cigarette and, while standing on the side of the road, was struck and killed by another motorist who was unable to avoid a collision with the woman. This accident is a tragic reminder of how dangerous it can be for motorists to pull over on the side of the road.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety Report Summary, 12% of all interstate highway deaths are pedestrians in the roadway or on the shoulder. That is an average of 610 people per year in the US. Oftentimes, motorists who cause a collision with a pedestrian were either driving while distracted, under the influence, or rubbernecking.

For many motorists the term “rubbernecking” is an all too familiar action. Rubbernecking occurs when motorists turn their attention away from the road ahead of them due to a distraction usually off to one side of the road such as an accident or police stop. Consequently, when motorists turn their head to look at whatever is happening on the side of the road their cars tend to drift out of their lane in the direction of their attention creating a significant risk of collision and injury. As exciting as the events on the side of the road may be, it is always safer and smarter to keep your attention on your current path to avoid accidentally swerving into another lane or the shoulder.

Despite the dangers, there are cases in which pulling over onto the shoulder of the road is unavoidable. Such instances include a blown out tire, car trouble that renders the car unsafe or unable to drive, someone in the car is sick, or being pulled over by a police officer. It is important to know proper safety tips for pulling over on the side of the road in order to dramatically decrease the chances of you or someone else getting injured.

  • The Resist Attack Foundation, suggests drivers attempt to move off the road as far as possible, preferably to the right, and warn other drivers that your vehicle is on the shoulder by turning on your hazard lights and placing emergency triangles or flares several hundred feet behind your car.
  • If possible, the Weather Channel suggests you should raise the hood of your vehicle as this is an international sign of distress.
  • All occupants should exit the vehicle, via the passenger side, and stand as far away from the road as possible. Remember that it is not safe to be attempt to repair your vehicle while it is on the side of the road.
  • Call roadside assistance, a tow truck, or the police so you and your vehicle can be moved from danger as soon as possible.

Although the risks can be high, there are times as a driver that you have to pull off onto the shoulder. In these instances remember to use common sense, make your car visible, and stay as far away from the road as possible. Likewise, as a driver, remember to keep an eye open for people and vehicles on the side of the road, move to a lane as far away from the shoulder as possible, and remember to not let yourself rubberneck as you pass by.

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