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Stopped-vehicle roadside accidents are deadlier than you think

Man changes Flat Tire by the HighwayMost people aren't worried about getting into a bad car accident when they're stopped and pulled away from traffic, but a new study says we need to reconsider this assumption.

An analysis of federal car accident data says that thousands of people are seriously injured or killed every year in crashes involving "inconspicuous vehicles" — mostly disabled or otherwise stopped vehicles pulled over to the side of the road.

Being pulled over on the side of the road puts you at a higher risk of a crash. Every year, more than 14,000 people are injured in roadside accidents. About 560 of them die in stopped-vehicle crashes with a stationary car, truck, or motorcycle.

Recently, an off-duty Washington State Patrol officer was killed after she stopped to assist with a crash on I-5 in Seattle.

In June, a Trooper exited her vehicle to help with a multi-car crash on Interstate 5, just south of downtown near the Spokane Street on-ramp. She was struck and died on the scene, according to local media.

The person who hit the officer is cooperating with the investigation. Another person at the scene, however, stole the officer's vehicle and drove away. Police are seeking information on the incident.

Types of stopped-car crashes

There are essentially three types of stopped-vehicle crashes:

  • Two-car — One vehicle hits a stationary vehicle
  • Pedestrian — A pedestrian or person otherwise on foot is struck after exiting a stopped vehicle
  • Single-car — A vehicle leaves the roadway without anyone noticing

Almost all stopped-car crashes (95%) are the two-car type. However, the most severe accidents involve pedestrians. A little more than half of all fatal stopped-car accidents involve pedestrians attending to a disabled vehicle or exiting and entering the vehicle.

Single-car off-road crashes have decreased since 2010 while pedestrian and two-car crashes have gone up.

Roadside car accidents

The causes behind inconspicuous car accidents are numerous. In fact, the issue is a global problem. The World Health Organization (WHO) released a report earlier this year identifying stopped-car-crash risk factors.

Roadside car accident factors include:

  • Speeding — For every 1% increase in speed, the risk of a fatal crash increases by 4%, and the chance of an accident causing serious injury goes up by 3%. The death risk for pedestrians is far greater.
  • Driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol — The ability to safely operate a motor vehicle is extremely hindered when the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Nonuse of motorcycle helmets, seatbelts, child restraints, and other safety equipment — Correct helmet use can lead to a 43% reduction in the risk of fatal injuries. The use of child restraints drops the risk of fatal crashes by 60%.
  • Distracted driving — Drivers using cell phones are about 4 times more likely to be in a crash than drivers not using one. Driving distracted slows reaction time and makes it difficult to stay in the correct lane.
  • Unsafe road infrastructure — Measures such as footpaths, cycling lanes, safe crossing points, and other traffic calming measures reduce the risk of injury among all road users, but many streets lack these features.
  • Unsafe vehicles — Federal guidelines set enforceable standards, but the states require various levels of vehicle maintenance and inspections. In Washington, parts of five counties, including Pierce and King counties, require emissions tests. Only 12 states require annual safety car inspections.
  • Inadequate post-crash care — Delayed emergency responses may occur if a vehicle leaves the road and no one is there to see it and call for help. People who need emergency services in rural areas often wait longer for help due to lower first responder staffing, and fewer resources and infrastructure.
  • Poor enforcement of traffic laws — Regulations don't mean much if they aren't being enforced. To make traffic laws meaningful, the WHO notes, penalties must be appropriate.

Helping to move you forward

If you were injured or lost a loved one in a car accident, your recovery depends on your ability to negotiate a fair settlement with the insurance companies. It's an unfair situation. The insurance adjuster has spent years learning about insurance regulations and techniques to minimize your claim.

You can level the playing field by getting an experienced Washington car accident lawyer to help you.

Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC, fights for the rights of crash victims in the Seattle and Tacoma regions. We understand what is at stake after an accident. That's why our firm fights for maximum compensation.

Your final settlement or verdict should cover past, present, and future accident-related medical expenses, along with any other compensable damages that arise from your crash.

Contact Nelson Langer Engle, PLLC, today for a free case review.

We have offices in Seattle and Tacoma and are ready to hear from you now.

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