Too many roadside fatalities have occurred across Long Island, which is why it is important for the public to be aware of steps they can take on how to stay safe while on the side of the road.
On Thursday, July 21, Mark K. Feldman, a 54-year-old male from Sands Point driving on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) by Exit 39, noticed his vehicle had a flat tire. Feldman pulled over to the right shoulder of the highway to tend to his flat, where he was struck and killed by a United States Postal Service tractor trailer. A similar incident happened earlier this May, when two people died on the LIE in Old Westbury after an SUV struck a disabled vehicle in the left lane between exits 39 and 40. The driver of the disabled vehicle and one of its four passengers were hit and killed, standing outside of the vehicle.
Every side of the road is dangerous, especially roadways such as the Northern and Southern State Parkways because their sides of the road are not safely setup. Manager of AAA Media Relations Robert Sinclair said that when one finds themselves on a highway like the Northern and Southern State with a flat tire, “sometimes it’s best to drive on that flat until you can get to an exit and get off that roadway. Be out of the way of high speed travel.”
“Generally we tell people to get to the side of the road and exit the vehicle. But, if you’re in the middle of the roadway, flesh and bone is no competition for being struck by a vehicle,” Sinclair said. “If you stay in your vehicle that has protection systems in it, then that can help out in case you do get struck.”
Whether one is in the middle of the road or off to the side, using the four-way-flashers, keeping car lights on and raising the hood, if it is safe to do so, can prevent any type of catastrophic event from occurring.
AAA has been taking steps to try and prevent disastrous roadside events from happening. In New York, they have lobbied for the Move Over Slow Down law, which mandates that everyone who sees a vehicle with flashing lights, to change lanes if possible to give emergency vehicles and roadside assistance companies room to work. However, if traffic conditions dictate that one can’t do so, then the driver must slow down significantly.
AAA recently released a study looking at the number of breakdowns they serviced on the side of the road in 2015 and found that 32 million were due to flat tires, dead batteries and lockouts. This indicates how important car maintenance is.
“Giving attention to those maintenance items are very important,” said Sinclair. “Make sure the tires are properly inflated. Battery terminals must be cleaned. If your battery is three years old, have it tested. Batteries last three to five years.”
Nassau County Police Officer Jeff Heilig has been serving the highways for 12 years. He also sees the importance of having a vehicle regularly inspected.
“Make sure your car is in good working order. Especially in the heat, tires take a lot of abuse and go flat. Make sure there is enough cooling,” said Heilig.
Preparing for driving emergencies is similar to an athlete prepping for a game. Go over all types of situations that can occur on the road. Have a plan of action in case off chance something goes wrong while inside the vehicle.
If a driver must pull off to the side of the road, it is important to get as far to the right as possible.
“Pull off to the right as far as possible and leave the vehicle. Be behind the vehicle by at least 100 feet,” said Sinclair. “That way if the vehicle is struck, it will be propelled forward and you will be out of the path of travel of the flying vehicle.”
Cars disabling is more common than most think. Heilig said cars get hit on the side of the road about twice a week.
Another way to avoid these prevalent situations, said Heilig, is to either have a rag or flag in the car. They should be placed on the mirror letting other drivers know there is a stopped vehicle on the road.
Sinclair also recalls a time where a male hit the center mediate on the LIE. His bumper came off the car. The man went to retrieve it and was struck and killed.
“A moving vehicle of any size has a lot of energy and a lot of potential energy. If that vehicle were to strike someone or something, the damage can be catastrophic,” said Sinclair. “It is very important that people exercise lots of care when they are broken down by the side of the road. We have 32 million examples of why that is very important.”