Staying safe on the side of the highway

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — This time of year, blowing snow, ice and various other conditions can add additional risk to an unexpected roadside stop, whether it be at the hands of a flat tire or a Highway Patrol traffic stop.

The risk is present both to motorists, and to officials, as evidenced by this video out of Wyoming, where a trooper received a bit of a fright in the middle of a routine stop.

Wyoming Highway Patrol

In order to help mitigate the risk of such incidents, KELOLAND News spoke with South Dakota Highway Patrol Trooper Shelby Hattum.

Hattum made some time to talk, logging onto a Zoom call while stopped in her cruiser in Plankinton, where she’d just finished giving a safety talk about seatbelts to the local high school.

The first thing Hattum mentioned in terms of keeping the highway shoulder safe for drivers and troopers alike is to obey the state’s ‘move over’ law.

“When you come upon a vehicle with flashing yellow lights, whether it be another motorist with hazard lights on, or my patrol car or tow trucks; when you’re driving on the interstate or a highway with more than two lanes, move over to the farthest lane of traffic when you come upon that vehicle,” Hattum explained.

If you’re on a two lane highway, Hattum says to slow to 20mph below the posted speed limit.

If you fail to observe the move over law, the penalties can vary. If you’re pulled over for violating the law, you can receive a $348.50 fine, as well as a class-two misdemeanor. However, if you’re involved in a crash with a law enforcement vehicle as a result of your failure to move over, Hattum says that’s a class-one misdemeanor.

Hattum says the biggest threat to troopers like herself while carrying out a traffic stop, as well as motorists stopped as a whole, are violations of the move over law.

Beyond the move over law, Hattum says that to keep everyone as safe as possible, drivers need to plan ahead.

“Look ahead at the forecast and see what the weather and road conditions are going to be like,” she said, specifically pointing out South Dakota 511 as a tool to be used to check road conditions.

“Slow down,” Hattum adds. “Make sure that you’re driving for the weather conditions provided as opposed to [just] the speed limit.”

Changing road conditions are another factor Hattum warns about. “Traffic conditions change very rapidly,” she said. “The road might not be slick ten miles ago, but now you’re on black ice and you don’t realize it.”

Hattum also had some tips for anyone she may happen to pull over.

“Make sure you’re coming to a stop as safely as possible,” she said. “Always pull over to the right. People don’t expect to see your car towards the median — do what is as safe as possible at the time. If you need a little ways to get pulled off, that’s absolutely fine. Just indicate that you’re coming to a stop and do that as safely as possible. The last thing I want is for anyone to be in danger.”

The final point Hattum wanted drivers to remember is the importance of preparedness. “Make sure that if you are traveling this winter when conditions aren’t great, you keep a winter survival kit in your vehicle. Make sure you have blankets, water, some snacks or food in case you do get stuck on the side of the road.”

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