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Road-Side Accident Rate Reveals Highway Design Problem

Three soldiers with the Missouri National Guard were involved in a midday car accident recently that killed Private First Class Jordan House, of Independence, Missouri.

The two-vehicle crash occurred just before 1 p.m. when Jordan and two other soldiers were driving back to the Kansas City area after fighting floods in nearby Carrollton, according to an article in On southbound Interstate 435, their car veered off the road and hit a construction trailer parked on the shoulder. The driver and other passenger were hospitalized with injuries but Jordan was killed at the scene. Police believe the car left the road when the driver fell asleep.

Roadsides Particularly Dangerous on Busy Interstate Highways

This latest accident highlights an ongoing traffic safety problem – the close proximity of high-speed traffic to stationary objects just off the road, including light and telephone poles and stopped vehicles. In a study of off-the-road accidents, Civil Engineer Todd Mattox cited driver inattention, fatigue, car breakdown and bad weather among the reasons a vehicle may leave the road. However, he noted that traditional highway design fails to address the problem of inattentive, tired or errant drivers. As a result, one third of the roughly 40,000 annual traffic fatalities are off-the-road crashes, according to Maddox, who cited statistics from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Roadside Design Guide.

Tips to Avoid an Off-the-Road Crash

Keep in mind that vehicles on the roadside occupy a small space that leaves drivers no room for error. To avoid an off-the-road accident:

  • Avoid texting, eating and other distractions that take your attention from the road
  • Pull over immediately if you feel groggy – do not keep driving
  • If you must pull off the freeway, put as much space as you can between your vehicle and fast-moving traffic
  • Use flares or reflective markers going back 200 feet or more to cue oncoming traffic that you are parked ahead
  • Never work on a car stuck on the shoulder of the road or any other dangerous location
  • Danger increases after dark due to poor visibility, so take special care to park and stand away from traffic