Have you ever pulled over to fix a flat, check where you’re going, or deal with a car accident? You likely thought you were safe pulling off the road, but more than 500 pedestrians are hit and killed each year while trying to stay out of the way of traffic.
Keep reading to learn more about what to do if you need to pull over and tips for staying safe.
Why Is Pulling Over So Hazardous?
Distracted Drivers Aren’t Keeping a Proper Lookout
Unless your car is smoking or your tire blows out dramatically, other drivers probably are unaware of your emergency. They may expect sudden traffic slowdowns during rush hour or a severe storm, but when there are few vehicles and plenty of room to make controlled lane changes, drivers are more complacent. They may pay less attention, increase their speed, and follow too closely.
If you’re in the left lane during an emergency, you’ll likely try to change lanes and head towards the right-side shoulder. However, you’re combining a sudden lane change with an unexpected reduction in speed. Other drivers may not anticipate your maneuvers, especially if they’re distracted.
Parked Cars and Pedestrians Are Vulnerable
If you get out of your vehicle on the shoulder of a highway, you’ve put yourself at further risk by becoming a pedestrian, with cars going by at 70+ miles per hour. But even if you stay in your vehicle, you’re still vulnerable to:
- Sideswipes: Misjudging your distance from the road, or not noticing you because they’re distracted or tired, other drivers can veer out of their lane and sideswipe you or your vehicle.
- Debris: If you’ve stopped on the highway, vehicles can kick up debris and send it flying at you or your car.
- Confusion: Stopped at night? If the road isn’t well lit, another driver might see your headlights and get confused about where the road is and gravitate toward you, rear-ending your vehicle.
Nighttime Stops Are Particularly Dangerous
To keep truckers safe, there are federal conspicuity regulations that require reflective markings on the sides of commercial vehicles. However, passenger vehicles and motorcycles don’t have the same requirements.
“Unless your car is smoking or your tire blows out dramatically, other drivers probably are unaware of your emergency.”
A vehicle on the side of the road is much less visible at night. Unfortunately, a distracted driver may not notice your vehicle – or even think that you’re driving in a lane and not stopped on the side of the road. This can lead to a catastrophic rear-end crash or unexpected sideswipe.
Need to Pull Over? Follow These 6 Tips to Stay Safe
1. Stay Calm and Make Controlled Actions
When your car’s check engine or low-pressure warnings light up, give yourself an extra 30 seconds, take a deep breath, and try to pull over safely. Avoid slamming on your brakes or swerving onto the shoulder. Instead, slow down gradually and wait for other drivers to notice something is wrong before attempting to change lanes or pull over.
2. Use Your Hazard Lights
Turn on your hazard lights before you even begin to pull over or switch lanes. The lights will help grab the attention of other drivers and make them more likely to notice that you are slowing down. You should also keep the lights on while stopped on the shoulder.
3. At Night, Use All Your Vehicle’s Lights
You want to do everything you can to ensure that other drivers notice you, get over, and give you space. If it’s dark out, keep your both your headlights and hazards on, and consider putting your interior dome lights on as well. This will help make your vehicle more visible to other drivers. Don’t worry about draining your battery, it’s unlikely you’ll be stuck on the shoulder long enough to face that issue.
4. Move As Far Away From Traffic as Possible
If you’re on a street with driveways and parking lots, stopping in one of these locations is a safer option than the shoulder. But if you’re on a highway or need to stop right away, pull over as far from the roadway as possible, onto the grass if necessary.
5. Avoid Standing Outside the Vehicle
A vehicle is far more likely to hit and severely injure you if you are outside your car, especially if you’re trying to fix a tire on the side closest to the road. We suggest that everyone keep a portable warning sign or cones in their car or truck, which can warn other drivers of your presence outside the vehicle. If you have someone with you, have them keep a lookout for oncoming traffic and hazards.
6. Call a Tow Truck
Rather than trying to repair your vehicle on the side of the road, consider calling a tow truck. A professional can change your tire quickly or tow your car to a location where you can safely fix it.
Injured During an Emergency Stop? Consult with an Injury Lawyer
After a crash, you need to protect your legal rights. In addition to calling 911 and cooperating with the police investigation, you should take photos of the crash site and collect the names of any witnesses. This information can help your lawyer reconstruct the circumstances surrounding your collision.
However, you should also consult with an injury lawyer as soon as possible. When a crash occurs on the shoulder, there may be a variety of factors that complicate your case. The negligent driver may try to blame you for the collision, arguing that you caused the accident by improperly pulling over or failing to use your hazards.
At Crosley Law, we have helped many crash victims that were injured while they were pulling over or on the side of the road. For example, one of our clients was driving down the road when his car began to malfunction. As he tried to pull over, a distracted driver rear-ended his vehicle. Unfortunately, the insurance company tried to blame his injuries on pre-existing conditions and other factors. We were able to fight back. Using our client’s medical records, a careful legal analysis, we got our client the help he deserved.
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Crosley Law: Fighting for Crash Victims in Texas
Have you been injured while trying to pull over or while stopped at the side of the road? Crosley Law is here to help. Our attorneys have experience with both pedestrian injuries and car crashes and can help you prove another driver responsible for your injuries.
Pedestrian Fatalities on Interstate Highways, United States, 1993-2012. (2014, September). Washington, D.C.: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved from https://aaafoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/PedestrianFatalitiesonInterstatesReport.pdf
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.