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Rick Shapiro
Rick Shapiro
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Is The Highway Shoulder Really A Safe Stopping Place?

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Is it safe to pull over on the shoulder of a highway to change a tire, change drivers, get something out of the trunk, or even to be pulled over by a police officer?
Based on my experience as an injury lawyer, the answer is a resounding “no.” If you can, get off the busy highway first, or at least pull all the way off the shoulder at an exit ramp where the main traffic is not blasting by your vehicle.
We are always keeping up with reading injury case reports of court decisions from around the country, and yes, there are innumerable cases every year where someone if killed or injured helping a stranded motorist or injured while simply changing a tire.

Believe it or not, some negligent driver or drunk driver plows into a car on the shoulder every month every year.
For example, in April 2006, this story appeared in the News Tribune from Washington State:
A truck hit a Washington State Patrol trooper as he was issuing a ticket on state Route 512 this morning, KIRO 7 Eyewitness News reported. A State Patrol spokeswoman said the driver of a truck lost control and hit the trooper, his motorcycle and the van he had pulled over near Fruitland. The trooper is in serious condition. The driver of the van and her 4-year-old child, who was a passenger in the van, are also hurt. The truck driver was not seriously hurt. The accident happened at 8:33 a.m. On westbound SR 512 near the Canyon Road exit just east of the Woodland Avenue overpass. By 11 a.m., one westbound lane lane was open. Eastbound lanes were open but moving slowly. The trooper was on the passenger side of the minivan giving a woman a ticket when a furniture delivery truck lost control and hit the minivan and him. Parts of his motorcycle were splattered all over the highway. The trooper has been taken to the Tacoma General Hospital. The driver of the van and her four-year-old daughter both were being treated for injuries at Good Samaritan Hospital.

Just think statistics: is it more likely to be the victim of a freak roadside accident with hundreds of vehicle whizzing by on an interstate highway, or with only a handful of vehicles slowly moving by your car at the shoulder of an exit ramp, or on a side road? I think you understand the point.
The same type of analysis applies to many situations which allow optional choices affecting safety. There are times your vehicle may be disabled suddenly–leaving no option. If that does happen–pull as far off the roadway as possible and do not remain in the car or stand beside it except as necessary.