One night you are driving home from work. Maybe you’re stuck in traffic or you are cruising down the road. Suddenly, your car cuts out. Or your tire goes flat. Or a bunch of red lights on the dashboard start to flash at you and you have no idea why. Perhaps you just run out of gas. You need to pull over – now. With no exit in sight and other drivers starting to pile up behind you, you drift into the emergency or brakedown lane. Ugh. Now what?
Emergency lane is dangerous
The emergency lane in Rhode Island can be a dangerous place, especially on a busy highway. Cars and trucks are rushing past, shaking your car, and you quite possibly are terrified to step outside the vehicle. If you have children in the car, that can make it even more frightening. Being a pedestrian on the highway is very dangerous. An emergency lane is supposed to be a safe place for motorists to change tires, call a tow truck, put gas in the tank, or take care of other car issues. Unfortunately, negligent or even impaired drivers often do not obey the rules of the road and use this lane for passing or sometimes are just not paying attention.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, vehicles on the shoulder provide a “significant safety risk for responders, involved motorists, and approaching motorist.” Further, even though no “physical blockage” of the road is occurring, motorists on the side of the road do reduce “roadway capacity.” In a North Carolina study of abandoned vehicles in 2005, it was determined that 1,300 abandoned vehicles were struck, “resulting in 47 fatality crashes and over 500 injuries (I-95 Corridor Coalition 2007). In the same year but on a national level, an estimated 500 fatalities were reported by NHTSA resulting from multiple vehicle incidents occurring on the roadway shoulder and median, respectively (300 fatalities on the shoulder and 200 fatalities on the median).” http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop09005/quick_clear_laws.pdf
It is essential to stay safe when you must park on the side of the road. In addition, it is possible for your vehicle to be struck while you are out of it and seeking assistance. How do you prevent accidents from occurring in the emergency lane?
- Maintain your vehicle. Be sure all fluids are filled properly, tires properly inflated (and that there is good tread on them), and that you have plenty of gas, especially before going on a long trip or if you anticipate a lot of traffic.
- Pull over as far as you can on the side of the road if you do have to use the emergency lane. If you can get into the grassy area, do so.
- Switch on your hazards lights and place emergency flares outside of your car if you have them.
- If you have to get out of your vehicle, try to get out on the side away from traffic – even if you have to climb over the seat.
- Stay behind a guardrail if there is one and don’t cross traffic, if you can avoid it.
If you find you have been injured in an emergency lane accident or your car has been hit while you were seeking assistance, seek out the advice of an attorney right away. A Rhode Island personal injury lawyer or Providence car accident attorney can help you get the compensation that you deserve.