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How to Avoid Accidents on the Shoulder of the Road

Pedestrian deaths on interstate highways range from 9.4 percent to 12 percent of all pedestrian traffic deaths annually, according to the AAA Foundation. The reasons why these people were walking on the highway vary and in many cases are unclear, but it seems that nearly one-third are “unintended” pedestrians who had been involved in a crash or were working on a disabled vehicle. While most of the pedestrians killed (77.1 percent) were on the actual roadway, 15.1 percent were struck while on the shoulder.

If that last statistic is not enough to convince you the shoulders of an interstate are dangerous places, consider this: the wind shear from a tractor-trailer passing at 55 miles per hour is often powerful enough to pull a pedestrian onto the roadway, where he can be struck by another vehicle.

Shoulders are only for extreme emergencies. If you have a minor emergency, such as a flat tire, try to ride it out to the next exit or rest stop. You never want to attempt to change a tire on the shoulder. But if you do need to be on the shoulder of a road, there are some things you can do to stay safe:

  • Use the right shoulder, not the left — Traffic generally travels more slowly in the far right lane, making it a safer environment for your stopped car.
  • Stay in your car — This is the safest place to be while you wait for help. Call 911 or a tow service and sit tight.
  • Get as far over to the right as possible — Even if you can’t open the door on the passenger’s side, it’s better to reduce the possibility of a side-swipe accident on the driver’s side.
  • Keep your car illuminated — Keep your taillights, cabin lights and headlights on. This will encourage passing traffic to slow down and move over in accordance with New Jersey law and discourage anyone else from turning onto the shoulder where you are.
  • Drop some flairs — This contradicts slightly the “stay in your car” rule, but you have to do what is necessary according to conditions. If you’re stopped in broad daylight, flairs may not be necessary. But if it’s the dark of night, you should drop some flairs to alert oncoming traffic, and then return to the safety of your car.

Exiting the shoulder can also be very hazardous. Keep in mind that approaching traffic is traveling at a minimum speed of 55 miles per hour and it may take your vehicle at least ten seconds to get up to that speed. Try counting as cars approach to get a gauge of how far down the road the next car must be for you to make your entry safely, and wait for a long enough gap in traffic. How fast you get back on the highway is not as important as how safely you do it.

If you are injured in an interstate accident in Bergen County or anywhere in New Jersey, Seigel Law is ready to help. Contact us online or call 201.444.4000 today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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