Car accidents that occur on the shoulder of the road are very dangerous, and often, deadly. In fact, of all fatal accidents in the nation in 2009, about 40% of them involved the shoulder of the road impact. Many of these collisions involve a vehicle stopped or stalled on the road due to mechanical problems but in other cases, a bicyclist riding on the shoulder or a pedestrian walking near the road can also become victims.
Types of Shoulder of the Road Accidents
The typical type of shoulder of the road accident occurs when one motorist pulls off the road to the shoulder but fails to completely remove his or her vehicle from the drivable portion of the road. Most often, this happens on an expressway, highway, or interstate in the Chicago area because limited access to these roads means that motorists have limited opportunities to remove their vehicles in the event of a problem.
A stopped or stalled motorist on the side of an expressway can present a serious danger to safety. As other drivers approach the area, the other drivers may not realize that the stopped vehicle is off the road and instead may believe it to be in the rightmost lane, leading to a potential accident or collision. During the dark hours of night, it can be difficult to see a vehicle at all if the vehicle's lights are not illuminated. Failure to illuminate a stopped car can also cause a collision.
In Illinois, it is illegal for drivers to stop their cars where parking is prohibited. Generally, this means that a driver experiencing mechanical problems with a car must fully remove the vehicle from the lanes of through traffic, or moving the vehicle so that it is entirely on the shoulder of the road and not occupying any of the portion that is used for driving. Failing to do this can not only lead to a citation by local police but also can lead to a serious accident that may result in injuries, or worse, death.
Another common reason that shoulder of the road collisions occur is that some emergency crews must work on the side of the road. Motorists who fail to give these workers space may unnecessarily risk a collision between the worker and the motorist's car. Often, these employees may be police officers who are performing legal traffic stops or they may be tow truck drivers responding to a call for help. Emergency medical technicians and firefighters are likely to be in danger's way in the event they respond to the scene of a crash and must work on the shoulder of the road.
In Chicago and the rest of Illinois, the "Move Over" law, formerly known as "Scott's Law," requires all drivers to move over at least one lane from where an emergency crew with flashing lights is working. If a police officer, fire truck, or maintenance crew is working on the right shoulder of a road and the vehicle's lights are flashing, all other drivers must move from the right lane of travel to another available lane to provide a safe distance between the workers and the passing traffic. This law was enacted to reduce the number of pedestrians struck and killed by traffic in shoulder of the road accidents every year as well as to increase safety for all drivers. Failing to follow the Move Over law may leave a driver with a fine or a suspended license, but if failing to follow the law results in an accident, the punishments can be much more severe.
These accidents are most common on roads with limited access, like expressways, because a driver is limited in the ability to exit these areas. They are less common on city streets where a driver can pull into a parking lot, parking garage, street parking area, or a parking lot to remove the vehicle from traffic and reduce the threat posed to safety. However, in a densely populated urban area like Chicago, shoulder of the road accidents still occur. Often, though, they involve a vehicle striking a bicyclist or a pedestrian who is riding or walking near the edge of the road.
Bicyclists are legally allowed to ride the streets of Chicago and they must follow traffic laws like other drivers. Yet the small size of a bicycle makes them more difficult to see than another vehicle, increasing the odds that a distracted car driver will enter the path of travel of a bicyclist and cause a collision. Similarly, many areas of Chicago are designated for pedestrian walking or pedestrian crossing near the shoulders of roads at intersections. If a driver of a car is not paying attention or not exercising care, a collision with a pedestrian may result, potentially with fatal consequences.
How to Prevent Shoulder of the Road Accidents
Experts acknowledge that shoulder of the road accidents have the potential to seriously injure or kill both those at-fault and innocent victims of these accidents. Therefore, it is always a good idea to act responsibly and to prevent these accidents from occurring.
If you experience car trouble on an expressway, exit the expressway if at all possible. If you must pull over to the side of the road, pull to the right side if it is possible and safe to do so. Turn on your vehicle's emergency hazard lights and make sure that your vehicle is entirely upon the road's shoulder, leaving no portion of your car in a lane designated for traffic. Never exit your vehicle when oncoming traffic is present and make sure you do not open any doors into the path of other vehicles. Call for help if needed.
If you are driving and see a vehicle stopped on the side of the road, move to a lane removed from the stopped vehicle if possible, providing extra room for the motorist or emergency responder stopped. Also, slow down when crews are working on the side of the road and watch for pedestrians to emerge from the vehicles stopped or the surrounding areas.
If you ride a bicycle, make sure you are compliant with all local and state laws by using a headlamp and reflectors where appropriate. Remember that it may be difficult for drivers to see you on the shoulder so pass traffic only when it is safe to do so and consider another form of transportation in the event of inclement weather.
Have You Been Victimized by a Shoulder of the Road Crash?
Even if you put safety first, you may still become the victim of an accident involving the shoulder of the road if another driver acts negligently. If an accident causes you to become injured or claims the life of your family member, you may be entitled to bring a civil claim for your damages against the responsible driver. The laws in Chicago may let you seek compensation for the medical and surgical bills you incur, wages you are unable to earn while you are hurt, or the pain and suffering you endure. In the event your loved one is killed, you may be able to seek compensation for the lost time you will not be able to enjoy with your family member.
Following an accident, you deserve to have an advocate on your side. At Abels & Annes, P.C., we make it our business to represent those who have been injured by the negligence of others and we have successfully helped our clients recover millions of dollars for their injuries. Call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO (529-2442) or locally at (312) 924-7575 and let us provide you with a free case consultation. There is no obligation on your part and we have a lawyer standing by 24 hours a day, seven days a week to take your call. Do not let yourself continue to be victimized; call us today and let us help you get a recovery you deserve.
If you have been injured in a shoulder of the road accident, call us today at (855) LAW-CHICAGO or Contact Us online for a free case consultation.