ST. GEORGE — Officials this month are urging motorists to drive their vehicles off the highway or interstate after minor fender benders.
These types of crashes can cause major delays and have potentially deadly consequences, the Utah Highway Patrol said in a statement.
After a typical crash on a six-lane interstate, even if the involved vehicles pull onto the shoulder, traffic will still back up as if two lanes of the highway were blocked, according to a statement by Utah Department of Transportation traffic operations engineers.
If the vehicles don’t pull onto the shoulder and instead block a full lane of traffic, that causes delays equal to blocking three lanes, UDOT roadway safety specialist said.
“Even the most minor crashes can cause major delays,” UDOT Public Information Officer John Gleason said. “Ideally if you can drive your car, please pull off at the next exit.”
Of the 13,706 crashes investigated by the UHP in 2016, only 38 percent of motorists had moved off the freeway, UHP Col. Michael Rapich said.
Utah Highway Patrol officials said they are doing everything they can to clear crashes and get them off the roadway so traffic can flow smoothly, but they need the public’s help.
“Do everyone a favor, and move your car,” Rapich said. “Call 9-1-1, and listen to what the dispatcher tells you. They’ll help keep you safe and make sure to send help your way.”
By calling 9-1-1, he said, that starts the office reporting process, so drivers need not worry about leaving the scene of an accident.
Moreover, keeping a vehicle on the Interstate after a crash can be dangerous – even more so if drivers exit their vehicles and stand on the Interstate.
Rapich and Gleason said if a vehicle is disabled and unable to move to the next exit, drivers and passengers should stay in the vehicle with their seat belts fastened.
“With winter approaching, the chance for a secondary crash is extremely high,” Gleason said. “You’re basically a sitting duck if you get out of your vehicle. Stay safe, buckled up in your car, and call 9-1-1 for help.”
In June, two brothers were killed and another man was injured after a car traveling on state Route 201 near Magna collided with two vehicles that had pulled over to the side of the road to change a tire.
Officials recommend that motorists with a flat tire drive to the nearest exit whenever possible.
Earlier this month, a 54-year-old Cedar City man was transported to the hospital in critical condition following a three-vehicle collision on Interstate 15 near Leeds. After colliding with a rolled car resting in the middle of the Interstate, the man had exited his vehicle and was struck by an oncoming car.
Just last week, a woman was killed when she got out of her car on Interstate 15 near the south entrance of the Virgin River Gorge to check on a blown tire. She was struck by a motorist coming out of a blind curve. Three other people were injured and transported to the hospital during the deadly ordeal.
To help prevent situations of the like, UDOT and UHP officials have tools to remove disabled vehicles from the road.
UDOT’s Incident Management Team has five trucks equipped with stingers to pull disabled vehicles off the Interstate, and UHP troopers utilize push bumpers to remove disabled vehicles off the roadway.
Additionally, UDOT can help motorists who have run out of gas, need help with a flat tire or motorists in need of a jumpstart.
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