Car problems and emergencies happen when you drive in and around Chicago. Often, a motorist has little or no warning before a problem arises, forcing her to consider alternative plans without a lot of time to decide on a strategy. Depending on where you are driving, you may have several choices if you need to pull over and bring your vehicle to a stop. Ideally, you would exit the roadway entirely by pulling into a parking lot, alleyway, or other less traveled area so that you do not pose an ongoing safety risk to others. However, in some cases, it may not be possible to leave the roadway and you may be forced to stop on the shoulder of the road.
The shoulder of the road exists for several reasons. First, it provides an extra buffer or area of cushion for drivers between a lane of traffic and a soft ground surrounding the roadway. This is particularly true around interstates, expressways, and tollways in Illinois that have grassy medians and open lands around them. Secondly, shoulders can provide an area for a vehicle to stop temporarily in the case of an emergency. Without a shoulder, cars that could not make it to an exit ramp would be forced to stop within a lane of traffic, significantly increasing the risk that they cause a car accident or other traffic-related incident involving themselves and others.
While the shoulder of the road can be used in the event of an emergency, it is not ideal to do so if it can be avoided. Cars that are passing the area may fail to notice a stopped car in time or may believe that the stopped vehicle is in a new lane of traffic. This can lead moving cars to collide with a stopped vehicle on the shoulder and can cause injuries or damages to occupants of both vehicles.
Certain professionals must stop on the side of the road routinely to do their jobs. Among them, tow truck drivers, semi-truck drivers, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and department of transportation officials may have no option other than to frequent this high-risk area of an expressway and may be forced to bear the risk that comes with stopping.
Here are some safety tips to get you through car trouble if you find yourself with issues in Chicago:
- When possible, avoid stopping on the shoulder: If you can, proceed to an off-ramp, find a parking lot, or find another area without thru traffic to stop when you experience car troubles. Avoiding the shoulder will greatly decrease your odds of a collision and will help to keep you safe.
- Give preference to the right shoulder: If you must stop on the shoulder, do your best to stop on the right shoulder and not the left. Passing cars are more familiar with stopped vehicles on the right and seeing one there will be less likely to surprise them than seeing one on the left shoulder. Plus, vehicles on the right tend to travel at a slower speed than those on the left, giving motorists on the right more time to react to a stopped car and to take any action that may be necessary to proceed safely.
- Pull as far off the road as possible: If you have to use the shoulder, make sure you pull as far onto the shoulder as possible so that your vehicle is as removed from traffic as practicable. It is helpful to leave extra space between your car and passing vehicles to limit the odds of a crash or to give you room to enter and exit your car if need arises.
- Use your hazards: If you are stopped, let other drivers know by using your hazard lights, using markers to alert drivers of your stopped condition, and making it clear that you are not moving.
If you come across a vehicle that is stopped on the shoulder, move over a lane or two if possible or slow down your speed if you cannot change lanes. Anticipate the fact that a pedestrian may exit the vehicle or that an emergency may be happening inside the car. If you notice signs of distress, alert local authorities in your area so that they can respond to the vehicle’s occupants and offer any assistance that may be needed. All of these actions can greatly limit the risk of a shoulder of the road car accident happening in Chicago.
Prior Blog Entry:
Risks of a Tire Blowout Accident are High in Summer, Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published June 13, 2016.