Terence Masterson: Safety on the interstate

Published: 1/19/2022 2:21:10 PM
Modified: 1/19/2022 2:20:05 PM

Commuting on Interstate-90 and Interstate-91 offers routine examples on the dangers of idle vehicles on narrow highway shoulders. It is clear that high speed, easily distracted driving and narrow shoulders place innocent people, families and our state troopers in danger.

There should be no reason for our troopers to be working 24/7 on narrow sections of hot, frigid, icy, wet and windy asphalt next to high speed traffic. This letter will offer some affordably practical solutions to reduce or eliminate people standing inches from four-wheeled torpedoes.

Examples of unsafe shoulder conditions include a family standing outside their minivan watching their father fix a flat tire on a high heat afternoon. Another was seeing three college students fixing a flat on I-91 in Holyoke at dusk. Darkness is dangerous because most sections of I-90 and I-91 are not illuminated. Basic research on highway shoulders reveals that idle cars can not only be hit directly but just sideswiped. Reentering the highway from a shoulder is a safety concern.

There are four relatively inexpensive suggestions to offer: (1) prohibit all roadside repairs, (2) bar standing outside a vehicle, (3) ban non-emergency stopping, and (4) encourage or mandate that drivers (if possible) move to the next rest stop or exit plaza. All of these rules including the “pull over” rule should be posted consistently along both interstates. The “pull over” rule is a good measure but is not an ideal solution for several reasons, which include heavy or fast moving traffic that prevents lane shifting. Also, the two lane structure of I-90 makes lane shifting harder.

Another thought is that efforts should be directed toward minimizing, if not eliminating the need for troopers to exit their cars. Can safety stops be moved to the nearest exit, rest area or wider shoulder, or can troopers communicate by cellphone or car speaker? In summary, it is hoped that there can be a full analysis of ways to minimize, eliminate or divert all shoulder stops.

Terence Masterson



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