Shoulder elimination article

This article appeared on CNN Interactive in mid-January, and talks about the growing use of removing shoulders in favor of additional lanes.

Safety experts offer new roadside rules for vehicle breakdowns

January 11, 2000

From Reporter Jonathan Aiken

VIENNA, Virginia (CNN) -- Safety experts are rewriting their recommendations for motorists whose vehicles break down along busy roads and highways. The new advice follows a spate of deadly roadside accidents near Washington, D.C.

Conventional wisdom has held that motorists should remain inside their vehicles after a breakdown until help arrives. That rule of thumb may be changing.

Lon Anderson, of the American Automobile Association, said, "My advice: Get out of the car. Get on the other side of the guardrail, if you possibly can. It's not safe on the side of the road."

Decreasing space, increasing danger

Recently, three roadside accidents in the Washington area have left five people dead. In one instance, a Virginia man was killed when his car, which was broken down on an exit ramp, was hit by a truck just moments after he had called for help.

As traffic along many highways increases, roadside shoulders in many cases are disappearing. That could heighten danger for motorists with disabled vehicles. In 1998, 1,912 people died in roadside shoulder accidents in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Shoulder elimination an 'emerging problem'

Roadside shoulders are designed as a place for vehicles to pull over and stop, or as a route for emergency vehicles to pass through traffic jams. But nationwide, highway shoulders have been eliminated entirely in parts of 11 major cities to make way for car pool lanes and additional lanes of through traffic.

Traffic reporters, who observe traffic ebb and flow for a living, have called this trend a "quick fix."

"That's happened by legislation," said Bob Marbourg, a 20-year traffic reporting veteran, "by engineering, by the demands of our society for mobility where rights- of-way just don't exist."

Although highway planners have said the elimination of roadside shoulders is an emerging problem, no studies have been commissioned on the subject.

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Last updated 1/31/00