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How to Handle a Roadside Emergency

For the last 5 years (2014-2018), approximately 10% of all pedestrian-related traffic crash fatalities have involved a roadside emergency. For example, a driver getting out of their car after a crash and then getting hit and killed, or a driver running out of gas and getting hit while walking to the gas station. Generally, the safest thing to do if you are involved in a roadside emergency is to stay in your car, with your seat belt buckled, until help arrives.

If you are involved in a crash:

  • Stay in your car.
  • Keep your seat belt buckled.
  • Drive your car to the shoulder or next exit safely, if possible. Michigan is a “Clear It or Steer It” state.
  • Activate your vehicle’s emergency flashers.
  • Call 911 or the local police department for help.
  • Remember you must report a crash that involves a motor vehicle, causes injury, or causes more than $1,000 in damages.
  • Moving your vehicle to a safe place on the shoulder or nearby exit or parking lot is not leaving the scene of a crash.


If your vehicle is disabled or out of gas:

  • Put your vehicle in park.
  • Activate your vehicle’s emergency flashers.
  • Call for roadside assistance, or a friend to bring you some gas.
  • Stay in your car with your seat belt buckled while you wait.
  • If you get out of the vehicle (to change a tire for example), make sure you and the part of the car you are working on does not face traffic.


If you get out of your vehicle:

  • Stand with your vehicle between you and traffic.
  • If walking, wear a reflective vest if possible, and walk against traffic, as far to the side as possible.


Michigan’s Move Over Law:

  • Motorists are required to slow down and move over for stationary emergency vehicles with their lights activated.
  • Slow down to at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit (for example, slow to at least 60 mph in a posted 70 mph area).
  • Fully move over into an open lane. If that is not possible due to traffic, weather, or road conditions, slow down at least 10 mph below the posted speed limit and pass with caution.
  • The law applies to the following vehicles:
    • Police
    • Fire
    • Rescue
    • Ambulance
    • Road Service (tow trucks and MDOT courtesy vehicles)
    • Road Maintenance
    • Utility Service
    • Solid Waste Hauler
  • Violating the Move Over Law when an emergency vehicle is involved is a civil infraction subject to two points on your driver’s license and a fine of $400.
  • Violating the Mover Over Law when a solid waste collection, utility service, or road maintenance vehicle is involved is a misdemeanor.
  • If the violation causes the death of a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency responder, the motorist faces up to 15 years in prison and/or a $7,500 fine.
  • If the violation causes an injury to a police officer, firefighter, or other emergency responder, the motorist faces up to 2 years in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.


If you are driving past the scene of a crash:

  • Use caution when passing a vehicle parked on the shoulder. If possible, slow down and move over to pass, even if the vehicle looks abandoned.
  • Use hands-free calling to call 911 or the local police. Or safely exit the highway or pull into a safe area and park and then call for help.
  • First responders are trained to assist others, but if you must stop to help, take extreme caution:
    • Park your vehicle as far off the shoulder as safely as possible.
    • Activate your flashers.
    • Try and stand on the opposite side of your vehicle than traffic.
  • Weather conditions (snow, ice, rain, wind, fog) can increase the distance needed to stop. When driving in adverse weather conditions, slow down.


Emergency kit:

  • Keep an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. If you have to get out of your vehicle to retrieve it, do so quickly and return to your vehicle and buckle your seat belt. Your kit should contain:
    • Batteries
    • Flashlight
    • Phone charger
    • Water and non-perishable food
    • Blankets
    • First aid kit
    • Jumper cables


Additional Resources