Emergencies on the road are never planned, but drivers always need to plan for those moments when they may arise—especially if they are driving commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). Because commercial motor vehicles are considerably larger and heavier than smaller vehicles, their drivers have an extra degree of responsibility for vigilance and care. Not only do they need to know the rules and regulations governing the use of emergency reflectors and other emergency signals, they need to understand the etiquette of sharing the road with smaller vehicles. In other words, they need to do whatever they can to prevent trucking accidents and to safeguard not only themselves but others.
Given that the number of emergency lane accidents is on the rise across the country, there is growing concern about the hazards of large commercial vehicles obstructing these areas. It goes without saying that a CMV driver should avoid doing so wherever possible, and should only stop if his/her vehicle has a serious functional problem like a broken fuel line or a blown front tire. If the vehicle is still mobile, the driver should exit the emergency lane as soon as possible and get off at the next off-ramp.
Emergency Lane Car Accidents On the Rise
According to Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, a CMV driver who stops for any unexpected reason must activate his/her vehicle’s signal flashers immediately, and—within ten minutes—place warning devices in the appropriately designated places. The required distances for placing these devices vary in accordance with several factors: 1) the vehicle’s location on the road, 2) the number of lanes in the road, 3) the direction of traffic, 4) the time of day, 5) the lighting, 6) the existence of obstructions or curves, and 6) the type of zone in which the road is located—i.e. residential or municipal.
DOT regulations give truck drivers the choice of using bi-directional reflective devices, lighted fuses, or liquid-burning flares when their vehicles malfunction on either the “traveled portion” of the road or the shoulder. Most drivers choose to use reflectors since they are easier to put in place. If fuses or flares are used, the driver is required to extinguish and remove them before driving away.
According to section 392.22 of the DOT’s code of regulations—“Emergency signals; stopped commercial vehicles”—when a large commercial vehicle is immobilized in the road, a driver must place one warning device within ten feet of the parked vehicle in the direction of approaching traffic, another within 100 feet in the direction of approaching traffic, and yet another within 100 feet in the direction away from approaching traffic. During daylight hours when street lamps are not required, he/she must place three warning devices in these designated locations. However, in business districts or the residential areas of a municipality, warning devices are only required when street lights are on or when there is not enough light for a large vehicle to be seen from a distance of 500 feet. If a vehicle is stopped within 500 feet of a hill, curve, or obstruction, a warning must be displayed within 100 to 500 feet of the vehicle. In the case of a divided or one-way highway, three separate warning devices must be used—one at a distance of 100 feet from the vehicle and another at a distance of 200 feet in the direction of approaching traffic, plus a third within 10 feet at the traffic side of the vehicle. If gasoline or any other flammable liquid has spilled on the road, only reflectors may be used, as fuses would create a serious fire hazard.
In these days of rapidly increasing traffic and ever-present bottlenecks, it is vitally important for commercial vehicle drivers to know the rules, follow them, and exceed them—as caution dictates—in the interest of safety, good sense, and consideration. With winter approaching and the prospect of snow, freezing rain, and ice on the horizon, it is even more imperative to exercise caution.
Injured From an Accident? Rely on a The Reiff Law Firm Motor Vehicle Accident Lawyer of for Help
Following the letter of the law is always the best policy, no matter what kind of vehicle you are driving. But if you are driving a commercial vehicle, you need to do more than follow the letter of the law. You need to make sure that your vehicle is seen by all, and from whatever distance. Your choices should be governed not only by rules, regulations, and protocols but by an awareness of the enormous responsibility you have to protect vehicles smaller and more vulnerable than your own.
Contact a Berks County car accident lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm today if you experienced a car accident or personal injury.