Disabled vehicles create great risks on Charlotte-area interstates

Highway Patrol says a man hit a median on I-485 and got out of his pick-up truck to call for assistance. That's when he was fatally struck.
Highway Patrol says a man hit a median on I-485 and got out of his pick-up truck to call for assistance. That's when he was fatally struck.

Two people have died on Charlotte-area highways since Saturday after getting out of a disabled vehicle that was still in the travel lanes.

State highway officials urge drivers to use emergency signals to alert drivers to a problem, and pull off to the far right of the road whenever possible to avoid injury.

Remain in the vehicle and call 911 right away for assistance, said Lt. Jeff Gordon, spokesman for N.C. Highway Patrol.

“Try to get as far off the roadway” as you can, Gordon said. “If you’re off the shoulder, stay in the vehicle.”

A vehicle stranded in traffic on the left side of the road creates a much greater risk for the driver and passengers, especially on interstates where vehicles move along at 60 miles an hour or faster, Gordon said.

The driver and passengers need to get to the right side shoulder as quickly as possible if a vehicle gets stranded in the left lanes of traffic, Gordon said.

“I would not urge anyone to sit in a vehicle in a lane of travel on the interstate,” he said. “Exit the vehicle. You need to do that safely.”

Gordon agreed that exiting the vehicle and getting to the right side of the road also would pose great risks.

“At the end of the day, it’s the driver’s responsibility to make sure you’re safe enough to exit the vehicle and get away from the vehicle,” Gordon explained.

The risk is that drivers in fast-moving traffic often have little time to react once they see an obstruction on the road.

That kind of risk proved fatal in two recent incidents. On Monday, a man died after being struck by an SUV on the Outer Loop of Interstate 485 near I-77 in south Charlotte as rain blanketed the area and made travel and visibility more challenging.

The man had crashed into the median on the left side of the road. He was struck when he got out of his pickup.

Alcohol may have been a factor in a deadly multi-vehicle wreck that shut down I-77 early Sunday at Tyvola Road in southwest Charlotte.

The incident began just before 3 a.m., when a vehicle broke down in the middle of the highway.

A second car veered to the left to avoid hitting the stopped vehicle but crashed into a concrete wall.

The driver of the second vehicle got out and was struck and killed by a third vehicle, according to N.C. Highway Patrol Sgt. Henry Dorty. Alcohol may have been a factor in that collision, Dorty said.

“If at all possible, go to the right,” Gordon said. “You don’t want to go to the left. You have no outlet there.”