A horrifying scene played out on the Sawgrass Expressway in Broward County, Florida, when James Schneider, 35, pulled his pickup truck over and got out of the vehicle in an attempt to save a stranded cat. During the cat rescue, a driver in another vehicle lost control of her 2010 Honda Accord, hitting Mr. Schneider’s Toyota Tundra, killing herself instantly. Mr. Schneider was transported to a local hospital and remains in critical condition. The cat’s condition is unknown.
Our Florida car accident lawyers have investigated dozens of car, truck, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents involving people injured or killed when struck by passing vehicles. And sadly Mr. Schneider’s story serves as a chilling reminder of just how dangerous it can be to pull over on a busy highway–and get out of one’s vehicle–for both the public and law enforcement.
STOPPING AND GETTING OUT OF YOUR CAR ON A BUSY HIGHWAY
Stopping on a busy Florida Highway is not only dangerous and potentially fatal, but it is also against the law. Florida Statute Section 316.1945, ”Stopping, standing, or parking prohibited in specified places,” prohibits stopping on a highway except when the vehicle is disabled or to render aid to an injured person.
And surprisingly, that behavior is even more dangerous for law enforcement officials, like Florida’s Highway Patrol and Sheriff’s officers.
FLORIDA’S MOVE OVER LAW
Getting out of a car on a highway and standing along the roadside acutely endangers Florida’s emergency responders, such as the FHP troopers, when they are required to get out of their cruisers on busy highways to write tickets or assist injured motorists.
Florida’s Move Over Law was passed in 2002 to reduce the risk posed to law enforcement officers of being killed or injured while pulled over to write tickets or render aid. The law requires motorists passing emergency vehicles with lights flashing to change lanes immediately and safely–away from the stopped emergency vehicle. However, if a driver is unable to move over or on a single-lane roadway, the driver must reduce his or her speed to 20 miles per hour less than the posted speed limit if the posted limits is 25 miles per hour or higher, and reduce to 5 miles per hour when the limit is 20 miles per hour or lower.
It has been over a decade since Florida passed the “Move Over Law,” and in the last four years alone emergency responders were hit nearly 2000 times, resulting in five deaths and over 400 serious injuries. Nationally, over 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along highways, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
SAFETY TIPS FOR DISABLED CARS AND TRUCKS
If for any reason you find yourself needing to stop on a highway, we recommend the following:
1. Immediately put on emergency blinkers and turn your headlights to bright.
2. Move your vehicle to the right-hand shoulder, as far off the roadway as possible.
3. Never pull over on a curved road where approaching vehicles have limited visibility.
4. It is better to ruin your tire and wheel by driving on it than leave yourself exposed to potentially deadly oncoming traffic.
5. Call 911. Most people do not consider a disabled car an emergency. I do, and recommend you request FHP come to assist you until a tow truck arrives.
6. If your engine dies suddenly during rush hour on the I-95, you are safer remaining in the car than attempting to cross the road on foot, especially at night.
7. If there is a call box nearby, attempt to use it, but return to the parked car.
8. At night, put on all interior lights to give your car the greatest visibility–with the engine running, if possible.
9. Keep a white t-shirt or towel in the car so you can use it as a flag, pinned in a closed window.
10. Never work on your vehicle or attempt to change a tire from the side exposed to oncoming traffic.
Our personal injury attorneys in Florida are passionate about helping the injured get back to their families, work, school, and enjoying life. We do this by working closely with our clients to help them obtain needed medical care and treatment.
We aggressively investigate and prosecute their claims to obtain compensation needed to reimburse them for lost wages and medical bills, as well as money for their physical and emotional pain and suffering. With law offices across the State of Florida, we accept cases everywhere, from Tampa, Tarpon Bay, Clearwater, and Hillsborough County, to the Florida Keys. We offer anyone who has been involved in a Florida traffic accident a free initial legal consultation. Call our office today at 1-866-597-4529 or email us.