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Deaths Outside Disabled Vehicles Present a Growing Concern in Connecticut

Written by Elizabeth Gilbert

Main repairing a car on side of road

Tragically, 10% of all pedestrian fatalities each year in the United States happen on the Interstate Highway System. In just the last six weeks in Connecticut, state police have reported that at least four people have been killed and two people have been seriously injured after exiting their disabled cars and being struck by another vehicle on a state highway. This startling statistic is indicative of a growing problem in our state, as the number of people who have been killed while outside a disabled vehicle has almost doubled in the last two years.

State Police Trooper First Class Sarah Salerno reported to CT Insider that people who break down on the highway can mitigate the risk to themselves and others by remaining in the disabled car because of the car’s safety features designed to protect occupants during a crash. Salerno explained that unless there is a hazardous condition like smoke, fire, or fumes, people who break down on the highway should remain in their car with their seat belt fastened, put on their hazard lights, and call 911 to let state police know their location and whether they need a trooper or some other kind of assistance, such as a tow truck.

The Connecticut Department of Transportation spokesperson, Shannon King, also highlighted the role drivers who are not broken down can assume to minimize the risk to people who are broken down. King advises drivers to eliminate distractions, not use their cellphone, and never drive impaired or while too tired. King suspects the increase in disabled vehicle deaths is due to people becoming more prone to speeding and exhibiting other bad driving behaviors as a result of the pandemic. During the pandemic, there was decreased traffic due to less people commuting and some drivers still on the road began driving faster and more dangerously, and have not since changed that behavior.

What Should You Do if your Vehicle Becomes Disabled on the Highway?

AAA recommends that you take the following steps to protect yourself if your vehicle becomes disabled on the highway:

  1. Have a roadside emergency kit in your car at all times that includes:
    • an emergency flashlight;
    • flares;
    • orange triangles;
    • safety blanket;
    • bottles of water;
    • jumper cables;
    • spare phone charger;
    • 10k+mAh external battery pack; and
    • non-perishable food like granola bars.
  2. Stay inside your vehicle if possible, pull over as far to the right as you are able, and turn on your hazard lights.
  3. If the conditions of your situation make it impossible to stay in your vehicle and you are safely pulled over to the right shoulder, exit the vehicle from the passenger side and wait behind the protective guardrail if there is one where you are located.
    • Remain at least 40 feet from your disabled vehicle because this is an ideal distance that will put you and any passengers away from the danger of flying debris in the event the disabled vehicle is struck.
  4. When a tow truck arrives, do not place the vehicle into neutral. Although sometimes drivers mistakenly think this is helpful, it is highly dangerous because the vehicle is not secured and can move at any time, putting the driver, tow operator, and others in traffic at risk.
  5. Do not get out of the vehicle when a tow operator approaches. Instead, remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt fastened until the tow operator approaches to give you instructions.

What Can You Do if You or Your Loved One Experience an Injury Involving a Disabled Vehicle?

If you or a loved one have experienced an injury involving a disabled vehicle, or any kind of motor vehicle collision, you should reach out to an attorney right away. Contact the experienced attorneys at Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC if you have questions about your legal rights following an injury of this nature in Connecticut. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call or contact us online today.