Stay in Your Lane: Breakdown Lane Safety

If the thought of getting a flat tire or having an engine light go on and having to pull over to the shoulder of a busy road fills you with dread, there is a good reason for it. Shoulders, the area between the solid white fog line and the unpaved portion of the road, can be dangerous places for motorists and pedestrians. While this area is designed for emergency stops and emergency vehicles, people can potentially become injured in these areas while they are stopped waiting for help.

According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, drivers and car occupants can become “unintended” pedestrians when exiting their vehicle on the roadside while they wait for help or try to determine issues. Due to lack of protection, the drivers then become vulnerable to accidents from exposure to high-speed traffic.

In addition, while standing by or behind a guardrail can seem safer, it can also give a false sense of security. While a 3,000-to-4,000-pound car can be restrained by a guardrail, an 80,000-pound semi-truck, which requires a much longer stopping distance, could plow through a guardrail easier than a passenger vehicle, striking the bystander.

If you have an issue that forces you to pull to the side of the road, the following risks need to be kept in mind:

  • Decreased Visibility
    Due to the speed of passing traffic, it can be potentially difficult for drivers to see a pedestrian walking around their vehicle, bending over your trunk or a tire, or looking for something on the ground. If passing vehicles cannot see you, especially at night, an accident could potentially be unavoidable.
  • Driver Awareness
    Although the side of the road is thought of as a safety area, that is not always the case. Drivers may not expect to see a parked vehicle, and especially a pedestrian, walking so close to the road. Driver response times vary for several factors, and some drivers may not react quick enough to avoid a pedestrian.
  • Side-Swipe Accidents
    When you pull off over the fog line, vehicles behind you could respond erratically, potentially rear-ending or sideswiping you as they try to move to another lane or pass by.
  • Debris and Wind Shear
    60 mph doesn’t seem fast until you’re standing still and vehicles are whizzing by you a short distance away. These speeds can produce a lot of wind shear, which can cause rocks and small particles or debris to become airborne.

The shoulder of the road is a dangerous place to be.  That is why it is only meant for emergency use. If you are faced with an emergency on the road and cannot continue driving to a safer location, move to the shoulder, as far away from the fog line as possible. Once on the shoulder, unaware, distracted, or slow-response drivers still present a danger to you. Be mindful of the risks listed above and take the best precautions you can to stay safe.

CED has engineers with expertise in vehicular accident reconstruction. If you require assistance for an accident investigation, please call us at 800-466-1090 or contact us.