I received a news story of a trucking wreck on IH 35 in Oklahoma where two gentlemen, Phillip Martin and Brian Robertson, were having car troubles. They pulled over to the side of the road, got out of their vehicle, and went to sit against the passenger side of their truck in the shade until help could arrive. Unfortunately, a truck driver came along, hit the disabled truck, and killed Mr. Martin.
This is but the latest example of how dangerous it can be to be parked on the side of the road. Almost all of us have to pull over at some time or another. We may have car trouble, run out of gas (that’s included for my mom), or have a child or passenger that needs you to pull over so they can throw up (as happened to one of my kids recently). Regardless of the cause, many of us have found times when we needed to pull over.
Unfortunately, motorists have a tendency to look at disabled vehicles or other cars pulled over on the side of the road, and when motorists look over in that direction, their cars tend to drift in that direction, creating a significant risk of collision and injury.
Perhaps the best examples of these dangers is from police traffic stops. Police officers have long realized the dangers of being stopped on the side of the road. For example, from 1993-2002, law enforcement officials estimate that 681 officers were killed in accidents involving traffic stops. Police departments across the country are now working on a number of solutions to help minimize these risks. Some of the things discussed include policies on how officers should position vehicles, how cars can be modified to provide the best visibility, to legislative solutions (such as the Texas law requiring motorists to significantly slow down when passing a traffic stop).
For other drivers, technology is helping with the risk. A number of car manufacturers are are investigating or starting to equip their vehicles with lane departure sensors that let drivers know when they might be inadvertently drifting into other lanes. A good summary of these can be found in this Wikipedia article.
But until that technology becomes common, it’s critical that all of us pulling over be cautious and aware of what’s going on around us.
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