We have all seen videos from dashcams that show a car careening off the highway and hitting another vehicle or someone parked on the shoulder of the highway. This footage is a poignant reminder of the dangerous situations that may happen when parked on the highway shoulder. Pedestrian fatalities due to traffic accidents account for nearly 16 percent of deadly car accidents. These deaths are usually the result of distracted drivers. It may seem that these situations are straightforward regarding liability, pedestrians should exercise some caution. If the pedestrian does not act in accordance with these standards, it is possible that they will not be able to recover their full damages.

Annually, a shocking number of people are killed on highway shoulders. Nearly 12 percent of all highway fatalities are pedestrians on the roadway or on the shoulder. This is an estimated 610 people each year in the United States. You need to follow certain safety guidelines in order to avoid becoming another statistic.

Why Is Pulling Over on the Highway Shoulder So Dangerous?

Avoiding Deadly Highway Shoulder AccidentsIt may not make much sense that an area of the highway meant to provide safety is a fairly dangerous place for pedestrians, but accidents happen on highway shoulders for these reasons:

  • Being there. Just being close to a highway increases your risk of being struck by a fast-moving car. If you are hit at a high speed, your injuries could be deadly. 
  • Side-swipes. When you slow down to pull over onto the shoulder, you are placing yourself at risk of being in a car accident. Drivers traveling behind you may not be paying attention and could possibly rear-end, side-swipe, or hit your car. 
  • Roadside Debris. Many highways have a speed limit of 65 mph or higher. Wind shear happens when the cars traveling along the highway lift small pieces of debris to come whipping toward you at high speeds. 
  • Re-entering. Even if you fix your problems without any of these risks happening, you are still must re-enter the roadway. To do this safely, you have to get back up to the speed of the dozens of vehicles moving past you.

When you can’t exit, pulling over to the shoulder is often your best bet. When other drivers are acting carelessly, you may be put at serious risk.

Don’t Stop on the Shoulder If There Is Not an Emergency

It can be extremely dangerous, especially at night, because drivers are often tired and cannot easily see what is on the shoulder. In many cases, crashes take place when exhausted drivers see lights ahead and believe they belong to a vehicle traveling in the right lane, only to discover too late that the lights are on a disabled car parked on the shoulder.

If You Get a Flat Tire, Drive to the Nearest Exit

If you get a flat tire, you may be concerned that you are doing significant damage to your car the further you go. Your first instinct will likely be to stop the car as soon as possible, even if that means parking on the median or side of the highway. Usually, the worst you can do is damage a wheel or rim. This could cost you somewhere from $30 to $300 depending on your car, it is safer to risk damage than to risk your life on the shoulder.

If You Have to Stop on the Shoulder for an Emergency, Pull Far Off the Road

Be sure that all passengers are out of the car and away from harm immediately after pulling over. Do not stand near your car. If there is one, climb over the guardrail and wait on the other side. If you are involved in a crash, pull off onto the shoulder but get away from the highway and other cars if you are able to. Not too long ago, two men were killed in the Washington, D.C. area while standing on the shoulder of the highway exchanging contact information after being involved in a collision.

If Possible, Stop on the Right Shoulder, Not the Left

It is usually safer to be on the right shoulder than on the left. It is important to get out of the active lane of travel and onto the shoulder quickly and safely. 

Make Your Car Visible and Warn Other Drivers

Turn on your hazard lights. Active your hazards when you are stopped on the highway or on the shoulder. If you have flairs, use them as well. Anything to make yourself and your car visible can help prevent injury from a car accident. 

When a Car Is on the Shoulder, Move Over to the Next Lane

Whenever you can, you should move over to the next lane if there is a car on the shoulder. If there is a police or emergency vehicle on the shoulder with lights flashing, move over to the next lane if you are able to do so safely. Police officers are increased risk because of the many times when they must pull over to the shoulder of a roadway to perform their job duties. Studies have shown that an officer is killed nearly every month in the United States in a crash on the shoulder of a highway. It goes without saying that the shoulder of a highway can be an incredibly dangerous place. Always drive responsibly and be aware of these risks so that we can all get where we are going safely. 

Utah Highway Shoulder Accidents

Highway shoulders can be a very dangerous area. Even though they are intended to be a safe-haven for those who have had accidents or emergencies on the road, statistics show that these locations have notable risks. Whatever the reason, sometimes drivers need to stop on the shoulder of an interstate, and this makes them vulnerable to being struck by an oncoming vehicle that is traveling at a high speed. In some cases, victims of these accidents are able to contact an experienced Salt Lake City car accident lawyer in order to regain lost compensation and bring the at-fault driver to justice after a collision. 

For 30 years, Siegfried & Jensen has helped the people of Utah recover after being harmed in a car crash. Call us today at 801-845-9000 if you have been injured by a negligent driver.

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Content checked by personal injury attorney Todd Bradford. I worked for a small law firm in Utah County, where I handled various types of cases. My main focus was personal injury and I decided that is what I enjoyed doing the most. I rejoined Siegfried and Jensen in 2012 where my focus is solely on helping personal injury clients. I take pride in helping personal injury clients and enjoy serving them. If you need an attorney for auto accidents or injuries of any kind in Salt Lake City, UT, Ogden, UT, Spokane, WA, or Boise, ID, contact us.