Shouldering responsibility as a driver
Looking back at our childhood often makes us cringe at the things we’ve done. I’ve jumped out of a tree with an umbrella hoping it would act like a parachute. I’ve jumped off a cliff into the lake not knowing how deep the water really was, just to name a few. Maybe the most dangerous thing I did as a kid was sitting on the shoulder of a high speed highway in a mobile home eating lunch with my family. This poses the question, just how safe is it to sit on the shoulder of a highway or freeway?
Forty years ago it seemed normal to pull onto the shoulder, hop into the camping trailer and have my mom make us a lunch as we traveled on our vacation. It didn’t matter that much to us when a transport truck drove by us and the wind that followed the truck often made the trailer rock hard enough that we either lost our balance or our drinks spilled. We took that as normal. Now, we take it as dangerous.
Keep in mind that drivers tend to go where they look. If a passing driver tended to look at our direction while we were sitting on the shoulder, there goes more than just our lunch. It would have been better to find a pull off area that is designed for things like this. Somewhere safer. So when should we sit on the shoulder of the highway or freeway? When you really have no other choice.
The obvious comes to mind; when your vehicle has broken down. A flat tire or mechanical malfunction would often mean you need to work your way over to the shoulder. At that time, get as far away from the moving lanes as possible. Put on your hazard lights and keep your seatbelt on as you call for help. If a vehicle strikes your parked vehicle, you can survive the impact better if you are restrained inside the vehicle. If you have to leave the vehicle for any reason, get as far away from the vehicle as you safely can. Again, drivers go where they look and most drivers are curious enough to stare at a problem at the side of the road.
I remember a time when I was pulling a small camping trailer and I had a flat tire while driving on a freeway. Since I was at an area that had small shoulders to the side of the driving lanes, I decided to go to the shoulder, reduce speed, put on my hazard lights and take the next exit to get a replacement tire. Even back in those days I realized the shoulders weren’t that safe a place to sit. Especially since I didn’t have a spare tire for my trailer.
This brings up the problem of a flat tire. It’s risky enough to have a flat tire at the side of the road, but if you have a flat tire on the driver’s side; closest to all of the moving traffic, you need to think safety. The move over law has been in place in most jurisdictions for over ten years. This is where you need to reduce speed and change lanes to create a lane between your vehicle and the emergency vehicle at the side of the road. But instead of just doing that for emergency vehicles, why not do that for all vehicles stopped on the shoulder of the road? It would make their actions safer for all involved and reduce their risk of injury.
The shoulders on higher speed roadways are designed to give drivers a place to go if something goes wrong. If you have the chance, get off the shoulder and find a safer place. This way you won’t have to look back in the future and cringe at what you did in your past.