Where should I pull over in an emergency?

You’ve probably been in at least one situation while driving down the interstate that required you to pull over.

Maybe you were getting pulled over by a state trooper. Maybe you had a flat tire or car engine trouble. Or maybe you had to use the bathroom really, really badly and there was no rest stop for miles (hey, it happens).

So you pull off on the shoulder to take care of whatever it is going on.

As it turns out, the shoulder of an interstate (or any roadway) is an incredibly dangerous place to be.

I see accidents all the time in which a car parked on the shoulder of the roadway is hit by an approaching vehicle. And those crashes usually do not end well, especially for the person sitting in the parked car.

Actually recently a Baton Rouge teacher was hit while standing on the shoulder of an interstate after having pulled over to help a person in distress. Sadly, she lost her life in this crash.

A parked car on the shoulder of an interstate is a sitting duck just waiting to be hit. And if you are sitting in a parked car on the shoulder of an interstate, you are too.

I tell my family all the time that if circumstances require them to pull off on to the shoulder of an interstate or roadway, they should pull off to the right as far as possible and then get out of the car.

In the case of the Baton Rouge woman who was killed, she was actually walking back to her car when another vehicle struck her car which then hit her. It is difficult to see how it could have turned out differently in that tragic case, but in general you have a lot more control if you are outside of your vehicle and see a vehicle approaching at a high speed.

And sometimes, the situation requires you to use your best judgment. Perhaps for some reason getting out of your vehicle would not be any safer. I think about this often when traveling across the Atchafalaya Basin Bridge, which in some areas has no shoulder at all.

Generally speaking, though, I tell my family in this situation to do the following:

  1. Make every effort to get to the nearest exit.
  2. If that is not possible, pull the vehicle off to the right as far as you can.
  3. Turn on the emergency flashing lights to help approaching vehicles see (and hopefully avoid hitting) your car.
  4. Get out of the car if it is reasonably safe to do so, and have all passengers do the same.
  5. Move as far away from the roadway as is reasonably safe to do.
  6. Call for help.

Again, sometimes, you have to use your best judgment, and there simply may not be a safe response.

The bottom line is this…the shoulder of a roadway is a very dangerous place to be, and you should do your best to avoid being parked there if you can.