BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Louisiana has seen multiple casualties caused by drivers not exercising caution when someone is pulled over on the side of the road.
The state has a Move Over law to protect law enforcement and emergency vehicles stopped by the side of the road. Drivers either need to safely get in the next lane over or slow down. But that doesn’t help private citizens.
“There are no specific laws requiring drivers to ‘move to another lane’ to avoid disabled vehicles, however, for the safety of all involved it would be wise to create more distance — move farther away from the disabled vehicle — to avoid a collision or injury,” said Capt. Gerrick Nelson, a Baton Rouge Police Department Traffic Office commander.
First responders have been hit while working on the side of the road. In 2021, two police officers were hit by a drunk driver while standing outside their police units on I-10 at College Drive. A third officer was hit while in their unit. All three officers were sent to the hospital.
“Helping stranded drivers on the side of the road should not be one of America’s most deadly jobs, but it is,” said AAA Public Affairs Specialist II Don Redman.
Redman said that, on average, two emergency responders, including tow providers, are hit and killed every month and that roadside crashes are notably deadly for tow workers.
“Government data shows that tow providers are killed at a rate of almost 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to just three for all other industries,” Redman said.
Redman said that all drivers should remember that the people who come to rescue others on the side of the road need space to do their work.
“And they also want to get home safely to their families at the end of each day,” Redman said.
Redman said seven tow truck operators across the country were killed this year in roadside crashes.
“These roadside heroes were not affiliated with AAA, but they represent the dangers all emergency roadside service technicians face daily,” Redman said.
Nelson said one of the safest ways to pull over is in a parking lot if possible. If that is not possible, activate your emergency flashers and drive as far off the right shoulder as you can.
In December 2022, three Southern University Human Jukebox band members were killed while pulled over on the side of the road changing a tire by an 18-wheeler on I-49 in north Louisiana.
“If you have to stay near the vehicle, the safest place is 30-40 feet behind the vehicle and as far away from the roadway as possible,” Nelson said. “Chances are that if your vehicle is hit by another vehicle, it will be hit from the rear.”
“The force of the collision will push the vehicle forward, which is why you would want to be behind the vehicle and as far to the right side of the road as you can,” Nelson said.
Redman said the shoulder of the road is never a safe place, and if you are able to exit your vehicle, do so from the passenger side and stand away from the vehicle.
“Remain vigilant, looking both ways while walking near the road, even if your car is technically off the road,” Redman said. “If you break down on a busy highway and you feel it’s safer to stay in your vehicle, be sure to keep your seat belt on while you wait for assistance.”