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A new traffic safety law is now in effect in Indiana that requires drivers involved in motor vehicle crashes to get their cars or trucks off the road and out of the way of other vehicles as quickly as possible. It was designed to reduce the number of secondary crashes—those in which another vehicle encounters a previous crash and becomes part of it. The new law went into effect on July 1.
The law requires drivers to clear wrecked vehicles from any government-maintained road. Previously, Indiana’s law only required drivers to clear their vehicles from interstate highways. The law includes exceptions, also for safety reasons: vehicles carrying hazardous materials, which might cause more harm if moved, and vehicles with injured or trapped occupants who might be further harmed if moved are excluded from the new requirement.
Indiana has taken the step of enacting this law to reduce the number of crashes on our roads and to improve traffic flow. Once a crash happens, it immediately becomes an obstacle to be avoided for other drivers and a hazard that can cause other crashes. The data show that more than one in five crashes (22 percent) happen when another vehicle becomes part of an existing crash or causes another crash when slowing down or trying to avoid the original wreck. As many as 18 percent of highway fatalities might be due to secondary crashes.
In addition to the immediate risks, wrecks left on the road can lead to major traffic problems that affect many other drivers. Every minute that a crashed vehicle is left in the road adds a four-minute delay during busy driving hours, which lingers even after the wreck is cleared.
The hazards of secondary crashes are not theoretical. Just a few weeks ago, on August 18, as emergency vehicles were dealing with a relatively minor crash which had been moved to the shoulder on I-80/94 in Lake Station, a tanker truck moving at a high rate of speed rear-ended a semitrailer that had slowed because of the first crash. The tanker struck two passenger cars and pushed the semi into a third. The driver of the tanker was ejected from the vehicle and airlifted to a hospital for treatment of his injuries. Traffic on the interstate was left snarled for several hours during the morning rush while the vehicles were cleared.
Indiana already had a “move over” law, which requires drivers to slow down and stay clear of emergency vehicles and others working on or at the side of the road. That law, which was updated in 2010 to include utility work vehicles, is also about safety.
Move Over America, an organization which works to improve awareness of these laws and bring them to states that don’t yet have them, reports that 213 law enforcement officers have been struck and killed by vehicles since 1999. Combined, move over and move off laws are intended to make the roads safer both for the motorists who use them and for those who respond to accidents when they happen.
If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Automobile Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.