Most drivers understand that stopping a vehicle on the side of a highway is extremely dangerous because of other fast-moving traffic. Anyone having to pull over on a highway due to a flat tire or overheated engine knows the unsettling feeling of vehicles speeding past and the difficulty of exiting a vehicle and waiting for help. Trained commercial truck drivers avoid stopping on the side of the highway unless an emergency or mechanical breakdown forces them off the road.
Yet, if an emergency requires a truck driver to pull onto the side of the road, some simple steps can help keep him or her safe. If the driver parks on the shoulder, carefully exits the truck, and follows safety regulations to warn others about the parked vehicle, he or she can reduce the risk of being hit by another vehicle.
Truckers should park on the shoulder for emergency stops
Highway shoulders running on the sides of travel lanes serve three primary purposes: Shoulders function as breakdown lanes for vehicles experiencing an emergency, as access for emergency vehicles, and also provide drivers with extra room or a “clear zone” for emergency maneuvers to avoid a crash. To keep the shoulder open for these uses, driving or parking on highway shoulders other than in an emergency is generally prohibited. In an emergency when a truck driver is unable to exit the highway and proceed to a safer location, the driver should pull as safely and completely as possible onto the nearest shoulder.
Truckers should carefully exit the truck
Once the truck is parked as far onto the shoulder and away from the road as safely possible, the driver should exit the truck through the passenger door, away from traffic. As insurance safety expert Brian Runnels puts it, “If I were to trip and fall, I’d much rather fall into the grassy shoulder than stumble onto the freeway.” Runnels also recommends wearing reflective gear when leaving the truck if it is available.
Truckers should follow safety regulations and use warning devices to alert others to the parked truck
To promote safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR) require truck drivers to alert other vehicles when parked on the shoulder (or broken down in a travel lane). The regulation for use of Emergency Warning Devices provides the driver must:
- Activate the truck’s hazard warning system.
- Leave the hazard warning system on while placing external warning devices in three locations around the truck.
- Complete the placement of warning devices within 10 minutes.
- Use either warning triangles, fuse flares, or liquid burning flares as warning devices.
The three locations for warning devices specified are:
- One on the traffic side, four paces (approximately 10 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction of approaching traffic.
- One in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder, 40 paces (approximately 100 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction of approaching traffic.
- One in the center of the traffic lane or shoulder, 40 paces (approximately 100 feet) from the vehicle, in the direction away from approaching traffic.
Once the warning devices are in place, the driver may turn off the hazard alert system, but must reactivate the system when picking up the warning devices and removing the truck from the shoulder.
How can drivers stay safe when passing 18-wheelers on the side of the road?
Drivers should also take precautions near stopped trucks. Passenger vehicle drivers have to safely share the road with much bigger and heavier trucks. Driving defensively to avoid hitting a stopped truck keeps those in passenger vehicles as well as drivers of stopped trucks safe. Drivers should remain alert and avoid distracted driving. Drivers who text or divert their attention from the road to read from cell phones or adjust infotainment systems even for a few seconds can drift outside of their lanes toward a stopped truck or fail to adjust to a truck near the edge of the road, causing an accident.
As in the case of North Dakota’s “Move Over Law,” where drivers are required to yield to emergency vehicles, it makes sense to slow down and proceed cautiously passed stopped trucks, even voluntarily switching lanes where possible. Additionally, if authorized emergency vehicles like fire trucks, police cars, or tow trucks are aiding a stopped truck, drivers are required to follow the Move Over Law.
What should Minot truck drivers do if injured during an emergency stop?
If you are injured during an emergency stop caused by a defective part on your truck, or due to another driver’s negligence, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention. Even if you feel “fine,” you may have sustained injuries that will worsen over time, or don’t seem as serious because your adrenaline is pumping. Even if you choose not to go to the hospital immediately, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor for as soon as possible. Having an early record of your injuries can be important to your claim later.
You should then call the police so they’re aware of the incident. Take as many pictures or videos as you can, too, of your injuries, your vehicle, and the road.
Understand that accidents with tractor-trailers are complex; the insurance company isn’t going to want to pay you, either. It really is in your best interest to seek legal counsel from an injury attorney with experience handling these claims.
Larson Law Firm, P.C. can help. Our experienced truck accident attorneys in Minot, Bismarck, and Fargo have spent decades protecting the injured. To schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers, please call 701-484-HURT, or fill out our contact form.