Is it Dangerous to Pass on the Shoulder of a Road?

August 10, 2023
West Chester Car Accident Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Can Help You After a Shoulder-Related Accident

Unfortunately, some drivers are inconsiderate and behave aggressively, risking their own lives and the lives of those around them. One maneuver these careless drivers do is drive on the shoulder to get ahead of others, particularly when everyone else is sitting in traffic.

Driving on the shoulder is dangerous, and accidents that occur on the shoulder are almost always preventable. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 600 people are killed with thousands more injured each year due to accidents on the shoulder. This accounts for about 12 percent of all interstate highway fatalities.

The shoulder should only be used for emergency responders and drivers experiencing an emergency, such as a flat tire or mechanical malfunction. Unfortunately, most shoulder-related accidents occur because someone legally used the shoulder for an emergency but was hit by another driver who drove onto the shoulder illegally.

Here are just a few reasons why driving on the shoulder is dangerous and should only be used for emergencies:

  • Stopped emergency vehicles: The shoulder should only be used for emergencies for disabled vehicles or emergency vehicles trying to reach those in need. If you use the shoulder, it is difficult to see stopped cars in time before crashing into them, especially considering the speed at which cars travel on the highway. Furthermore, driving on the shoulder will impede an emergency vehicle’s ability to respond to someone who needs them.
  • Pedestrians: The shoulder of a highway can sometimes have pedestrians walking on them because they are replacing their tires or their vehicle is disabled and needs help. It is a hazardous area for pedestrians, as they can barely be seen on the highway with cars traveling at high speeds.
  • Road rage: When someone is sitting in traffic and are driving legally, the last thing they would want to see is someone else taking advantage of them by driving on the shoulder and passing them. This invokes aggression and anger in the drivers who follow the rules and could lead to a dangerous road rage incident. This may even cause a driver sitting in traffic to pull out in front of a car on the shoulder to block them or run them off the road altogether.
  • Unexpected drivers: Drivers never expect to see another car on the shoulder when they need to use it legally, which can lead to a significant collision.
  • Re-entering drivers: Drivers who need to re-enter the highway after using the shoulder can have difficulty judging the speed they need to be to re-enter safely, which can cause drivers already traveling at high speeds to panic or lose control.

How to Use the Shoulder Legally?

Here are some ways the shoulder on the right should be used legally:

  • Parking, stopping, or waiting.
  • As an on-ramp to merge back with traffic.
  • Slowing down before turning.
  • Pulling over to allow others to pass, especially emergency responders.
  • Passing a disabled vehicle.
  • Avoiding a crash.
  • Making room for a bicyclist.
  • Following instructions given by a police officer or traffic control device.

There are some legal reasons to use the shoulder on the left:

  • Removing a disabled vehicle and traffic or road conditions prevents using the right shoulder.
  • Avoiding a crash.
  • Making room for a passing emergency response vehicle.
  • Following instructions given by a police officer or traffic control device.

Remember that driving on the shoulder to pass another vehicle or skip past traffic is illegal in every state.

West Chester Car Accident Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Can Help You After a Shoulder-Related Accident

Driving on the shoulder is dangerous and illegal. You may be entitled to compensation if you were injured in an accident that involved a negligent driver. Our West Chester car accident lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. are here to help. Call 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.