What Are the Dangers of Passing on Highway Shoulders?

Alexandria Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Those Injured in Shoulder Accidents.

As if driving on the highway was not challenging enough, there are some motorists who drive illegally and negligently, making it more dangerous for the rest of us. Driving on the shoulder is one such maneuver that is not only illegal, but also is extremely dangerous in some circumstances. Yet, to get ahead of traffic, many people decide to pass on the shoulder, risking the chance of a car accident

When a driver selfishly chooses to drive on the shoulder to pass slower traffic, it puts themselves and other drivers in danger. The shoulder is meant for emergency use only, yet there are inconsiderate drivers who choose to break the law. AAA found that 12 percent of highway deaths occur on the shoulder every year. Sadly, these accidents and deaths are completely preventable. Some of the dangers when driving illegally on the highway shoulder include the following:

  • Pedestrians. It is possible for pedestrians to be on the shoulder, whether they are there because of an emergency such as a flat tire replacement. When traveling at highway speeds, it is almost impossible to see a pedestrian, even if on the shoulder. This would most surely end in a fatal accident.
  • Emergency vehicles. Since the shoulder is for emergency purposes, emergency vehicles rushing to get to an accident scene will likely use it. If someone is using the shoulder to try to get ahead, they will likely block the emergency vehicle, causing a further delay.
  • Vehicles pulled over. When drivers use the shoulder correctly, they use it strictly for emergency situations. Their cars are likely stopped or even immobile while waiting for a tow service or maybe resting. Maybe the conditions are too hazardous for driving. Whatever the case, cars illegally traveling on the shoulder barely have enough time to react to a stopped vehicle in the middle of a shoulder, leading to a disastrous accident.
  • Confusion. It is not common to see another car on the shoulder, especially if the car is trying to pass another. A driver may accidentally swerve into the shoulder and not even be aware of a car on the shoulder, leading to an accident.
  • Reentering traffic. Even if you can travel on the shoulder, space may be limited and you must reenter traffic, meaning you need to match the speed of oncoming traffic. It is quite difficult to do so on a shoulder because it is not a real on-ramp.
  • Roadside hazards. Since the shoulder is not the main traffic lane, it is not maintained as well. The shoulder is littered with debris, potholes, roadkill, and other roadside hazards that make it very dangerous to even attempt to drive on the shoulder, let alone use it to pass others.
  • Anger and road rage. Driving on the shoulder to pass traffic and the people who are obeying the law will likely infuriate many other motorists. Some may see you riding the shoulder and be so angry that they may cut right in front of you or try to run you off the road.

Rules for Using the Shoulder

The laws for using a shoulder vary in each state, but it is illegal in all states to use the shoulder to bypass traffic or to pass another driver. If a driver has no other choice but to use the right shoulder, they may do so if it is safe and reasonable:

  • Park, stop, or wait in an area that is safe, should the driver need to do so for emergency purposes.
  • Decelerate to make a right-hand turn.
  • Accelerate to merge onto the main road and ongoing traffic.
  • A driver may use the shoulder temporarily to let other vehicles, including emergency vehicles, to pass.
  • Passing a stopped or disabled vehicle in the main lane.
  • Passing a vehicle that is making a left turn.
  • Using the shoulder to avoid a collision with another vehicle or object in the main lane.
  • Maneuvering to make room for a bicyclist.
  • When construction zone directions, a police officer, or authorized personnel is directing traffic to ride on a shoulder.

There are exceptions when passing on the shoulder, especially if you must do so on the left shoulder rather than the right. It is generally safer to use the shoulder on the right, but you could use the left side in a few instances:

  • If your vehicle is disabled and you must remove it from the main roadway, but the right shoulder is too far or not accessible.
  • Maneuvering to make room for a bicyclist or pedestrian.
  • To avoid a collision with another vehicle or object in the main lane.
  • To let other vehicles, including an emergency vehicle, pass.
  • If a construction zone instructs you to drive on the shoulder, or a police officer or other authorized personnel is directing traffic to go on shoulder.

Driving on the shoulder solely to pass others or bypass traffic is illegal in every state. Unfortunately, there are those that ignorantly decide to do so, which puts themselves and others at risk in danger. Although there are a few exceptions to driving on the shoulder, it is rarely recommended and should only be used in emergency situations.

If you are involved in an accident because of someone negligently driving on the shoulder, you likely would have suffered a serious personal injury or worse. That is how dangerous driving on the shoulder can be; in fact, AAA estimates about 600 fatalities per year are due to people illegally driving on the shoulder. If you get into an accident, remember to do the following:

  • Make sure everyone is okay, including your passengers as well as those in the other car.
  • Call 911, which will bring medical help and the police to the scene.
  • Get information of anyone involved in the accident, including contact information and insurance information.
  • Gather evidence, such as photos and video of the scene, including any accident debris.
  • Get a copy of the police report, where the police will detail the accident.
  • Call your insurance company and report the accident.
  • If there were injuries, contact a car accident lawyer right away.

Alexandria Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Those Injured in Shoulder Accidents

Driving on the shoulder to pass others is illegal. If you have been injured in an accident because of a negligent driver on the shoulder, you may be entitled to compensation. Reach out to the Alexandria car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Our skilled and experienced legal team can help you get the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.