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On The Road

Best Practices For Pulling Over

See how you can stay safe when pulling over, and drive safely around those that pulled off to the side.

by Team Onlia

Whether you’re caught driving over the speed limit or forced to slow down because of engine problems, almost all motorists will need to pull over at one time or another. If you need to get out of your car when pulled over on the highway, it can be pretty nerve-wracking to have cars speeding past you. 

That’s the primary reason many Canadian provinces are enforcing the move-over law, which emphasizes caution when passing stopped vehicles. Each year, a number of Canadians are killed in roadside accidents. Many victims include police officers and tow truck drivers, who are often struck while on-the-job. 

Although the move-over law was originally designed to protect emergency workers, the legislation has brought attention to the overall dangers associated with pulling over. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure the safety of yourself and other motorists. 

Choose your spot carefully

If you have the luxury of choosing where you can stop, take a quick scan of the roadside before picking a spot. Be sure to find an area that provides enough room between your vehicle and moving traffic. On a highway, for example, if you’re only a few feet from the white line that separates you and oncoming cars, this isn’t a safe place to pull over. Instead, choose an area that has a large shoulder, such as a rest stop or exit ramp. 

Be visible

The key to staying safe is staying visible. Make sure your vehicle can be easily seen by pulling over on a straight stretch of road. If you’re stopped at a curve, other motorists may not notice you as they come around the bend. And if you’re pulling over at night, turn on your interior lights to ensure extra visibility. 

Adopt a ‘safety first’ mentality

There’s nothing wrong with driving an extra few seconds until you find a suitable place to stop, even after a cop has signalled you to pull over. Because roadside accidents are far too common, most police officers will sympathize with this ‘safety first’ mentality. Just remember to turn on your emergency flashers. This will signal to the officer that you’re looking for a safe place to pull over, rather than trying to evade them.

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Don’t exit the vehicle

Unless it’s absolutely necessary, resist the urge to get out of your car. It’s one thing for your vehicle to be hit by oncoming traffic, but much more dangerous to be struck head-on. If your car has a flat tire or mechanical failure, call a towing company instead of trying to fix the problem on your own.

Navigating other cars that are pulled over

You can help keep others safe by taking a few precautions when passing stopped vehicles:

Move over, slow down

The move-over law may have been originally designed to protect emergency workers, but regular citizens can also benefit from its principles. When you notice a vehicle that’s pulled over, do the following:

  • Slow down to less than the posted speed limit

  • Move over and provide a lane of space between your vehicle and the one that’s stopped

  • Pass with caution

Don't always stop to help

Although we’ve been taught that helping others is the morally correct thing to do, getting out of your car to assist at the scene of a crash can be unsafe. If you still feel compelled to help, find a good place to pull over and call emergency services – even if it means you’re further away from the accident site.

Next time you need to pull over or pass a stopped car, keep yourself safe with our expert tips. We can all do our part to reduce roadside accidents by simply slowing down and giving other vehicles ample space.

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