When most people think of an auto accident, they naturally envision two cars crashing into one another. These are the most frequent type of incidents, but serious, and even deadly, injuries can occur when one vehicle strikes another parked vehicle or person on the shoulder of a road. This can happen in several different factual scenarios, many of which are discussed in this article.
Motorists sometimes have no choice but to pull over to the shoulder when their vehicles experience mechanical difficulties that lead them to believe driving further is unsafe. This may lead to traffic passing where occupants have exited the vehicle in an attempt to perform repairs on their own. Others may choose to wait inside their vehicles until roadside assistance has arrived.
As a fellow driver, if there are multiple lanes available, you should always merge into the furthest lane to avoid passing too closely to the stopped motorist. Slow your speed to guard against any unexpected, sudden obstacles in the roadway from either an occupant or a detached car part.
As a stranded motorist, think twice before exiting your vehicle, especially on a busy highway with a high-speed limit. Activate your hazard lights to draw attention to your stopped vehicle. If you have them, place caution cones to warn oncoming motorists of your position. You may also consider deploying safety flares if it is dark, or you are in an unlit area. Never stand near to the road to signal for help without proper lighting. Ensure that your vehicle is as far off the road as possible to allow other drivers to continue with minimal interference. If you are on the ground changing a tire, be sure that you are visible.
DPS TROOPERS, HIGHWAY PATROLMEN, AND EMERGENCY RESPONDERS
Law enforcement officers have a very dangerous job. Many of them are tasked with monitoring highway speeds, both in their patrol units and by standing alongside the road. Although these professionals are trained and experienced, there is a significant risk that they may be injured by oncoming traffic. When you pass a law enforcement officer stationed on a busy road or see that one is trying to enter the roadway, merge away from the vehicle, if possible.
Another part of their job, along with emergency responders, is to manage traffic incidents and render aid to those who are injured. This requires the officers to operate their units at a high rate of speed and often against normal traffic patterns when reporting to the scene of an accident. Pull outside of the emergency vehicle’s path to allow the personnel to respond as quickly as possible without causing a second car wreck.
Sometimes, when accidents happen, the wreckage cannot be cleared out of the way quickly enough. This creates an obstacle and distraction for passing drivers. It also causes anger and frustration from built up traffic. Many drivers may even turn their attention to other tasks when meandering through stop and go traffic that piles up just after an accident.
If you are involved in an accident, act quickly to move your vehicle out of the way. Call a tow truck, if necessary. It is important to survey the scene of the accident and exchange information with the other drivers involved. However, if possible, do this after moving off the road and into a safer area.
If you are driving by an accident, stay focused on the road ahead of you and the increased traffic around you. It may be tempting, but do not take your eyes off the road to look at the wreckage. It is also ill advised to divert your attention to the kids in the back seat or incoming email on your phone. This very well could result in a second accident, most likely from rear-ending the vehicle in front of you or veering into another lane of traffic, because of your inattentiveness.
CYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS
All too often cyclists and pedestrians traveling on the shoulder fall victim to passing vehicles. Even if you are on the shoulder and outside of the lane of traffic, a rearview mirror or other protrusion could strike you or your bicycle. Position yourself as far away from the road as safely possible.
You also never know when a driver is distracted. Texting while driving has become a major cause of accidents. A driver could look at his phone, even for only a brief moment, then look up to see a bicycle or pedestrian in the vehicle’s path. When driving, think about precautions that you would expect other motorists to take if you were a cyclist or pedestrian traveling alongside the same road.
All too often, accidents are caused when vehicles are disabled, emergency personnel are in the course and scope of employment, wrecks cause traffic delays, and cyclists and pedestrians are struck by vehicles. By operating vehicles as attentive, careful drivers, many of these incidents and injuries can be avoided. If you or someone you know has been involved in an auto accident, contact a Board Certified personal injury attorney to evaluate your potential claim.