New Brunswick

How to pull over safely: 5 highway tips from driving instructor

The death of RCMP Const. Francis (Frank) Deschênes last week in a crash along the Trans-Canda Highway near Memramcook, N.B., has one driving instructor calling on motorists to take more care, particularly when they are travelling along highways with high speeds.

Karl Stoeterau, a Young Drivers of Canada trainer, offers tips to drivers who pull over, and those who pass

A Moncton driving instructor says motorists must do whatever they can to find a safe place to pull over but it's even more important for passing drivers to move over and slow down. (CBC)

The death of RCMP Const. Francis (Frank) Deschênes last week in a crash along the Trans-Canda Highway near Memramcook, N.B., has one driving instructor calling on motorists to take more care, particularly when they are travelling along highways with high speeds.

Deschênes, 35, was in his marked police car when he pulled over Tuesday evening to help change a flat tire on an SUV.

Nova Scotia RCMP Const. Francis (Frank) Deschenes, 35, was killed on Tuesday night. (RCMP)
The preliminary investigation, based on interviews with several witnesses, indicates a utility van collided with his police cruiser and the SUV in the eastbound lanes, RCMP have said.

Karl Stoeterau, an instructor with Young Drivers of Canada in Moncton, offers some advice for drivers who need to pull over on the highway and to motorists who pass them.

1. Choose carefully

Stoeterau said accidents involving emergency responders at the side of the road are 'way too common' and drivers experiencing car trouble should pick the spot where they pull over carefully.

"There are plenty of places on freeways and highways where there's plenty of space for you to move over and get far enough away from the moving traffic," he said.

"A place where there's only about two or three metres is not safe. If you're only feet or metres from the white line that separates the shoulder and the moving traffic that's not a safe place."

Stoeterau suggests drivers pull over on exit ramps or rest stops if their vehicles are still operational. Otherwise he said pull over in an area with as large a shoulder as possible.

2. Be visible

Stoeterau said if you can feel the wind from the cars passing you, you are too close.

"About a car's width or a full lane worth of space is a safe place for you to pull over if you have to if you have a disabled vehicle."

For drivers who pull over on the highway to take a phone call or to deal with a less urgent vehicle issue, Stoeterau suggests finding a straight area of road.

"If there's some reason where I have to pull over it's going to be on a straight away where there's a good thirty seconds where the cars coming down the road can see me there. It at least gives me a chance to be seen."

3. Don't always stop to help

Stoeterau teaches his students that stopping isn't always the right thing to do when you come across an accident.

"If you pull over at the scene of a car crash and you're not in a good spot you can become part of the car crash as well." he said.

"If it's an unsafe situation that's the job of the emergency responders."

Stoeterau advises drivers to find a safe place to pull over, even if it is beyond the accident scene, so you can call 911 for help.

4. Pay attention and give yourself time to react

Stoeterau said that on a highway drivers should usually be able to see 20 to 30 seconds ahead of them.

Saskatchewan is closely watching as Manitoba enacts the harshest penalty for first-time offenders of distracted driving. (iStock)
"So there really should be no reason for you to not be able to move out of the way. Plan your space in the next lane. If there's just no way you can move over, you have to slow down and squeeze a little bit more towards the other lane." 

The driving instructor said anyone who finds themselves reacting to things at the last moment need to change their driving habits.

"You have to think about how that Tetris of the cars on the highway works so that you can find your space but you have to plan ahead."

Stoeterau said that means avoiding distractions such as texting and cell phones.

5. Moving over is the law

Stoeterau said accidents involving motorists driving too close to emergency vehicles at the side of the road shouldn't happen.

"That's why we have the move over law. It had to be done because emergency vehicles are often at risk or experiencing near misses with other cars," he said.

"It doesn't really matter whether someone slows down to 90 or 80 kilometres an hour — if someone is stopped and not moving versus that speed it's not going to be good."

New Brunswick passed the move over law in 2013.

"Any authorized emergency vehicle that has its lights flashing and is pulled over to the side of the road for whatever reason — drivers are supposed to move to the farthest lane possible."