Rear-end collisions are among the most common vehicle accidents on Canadian roadways annually, causing almost 8,500 injuries and deaths. Many of these rear-end collisions and equally deadly side collisions happen when one vehicle is stopped, and the other is travelling at high speed. Known as standstill accidents, these occur when your car is temporarily stopped at a red light, stop sign or another traffic warning, pulled over to the side of the road or brought to a standstill by traffic congestion.
While stand-still collisions may seem unavoidable, there are in fact ways you can avoid them or at the very least mitigate their impact. Here is what you need to know to stay safe on the roads.
Avoid Sudden Stops
Pull up slowly when approaching a red light, stop sign or railway crossing. Give yourself plenty of time to stop so you can avoid running into the car ahead of you. This will force other vehicles behind you to slow down too, and possibly help you avoid a rear-end collision. Slippery road conditions caused by rain or snow mean you need to allow extra time and space for stopping. When the light turns green, or you can move forward, pause and assess all four directions before entering the intersection. Never assume that all drivers will follow the rules just because you do. Defensive driving is your first and best defence, and can be key to staying safe on the roads.
Leave Plenty of Room
Avoid the temptation to drive aggressively and pull in too close to the car ahead of you. The few seconds and few inches you will gain by could come at a substantial cost. Always leave at least one car length between you and the driver ahead of you. If someone hits you from behind, you will have a far better chance of stopping your vehicle and avoiding sending the car ahead of you into the intersection and oncoming traffic.
This is equally true when traffic is congested. You will gain very little time by tailgating the car ahead of you. Leaving room allows you an opportunity for some manoeuvrability if something unexpected occurs and you need that extra space.
Keep Your Hands on the Wheel
You need to stay in control of your vehicle, even when it is at a complete standstill. This is especially true when you are stopped in traffic or at an intersection. If something does happen, you need to be able to react immediately, and you cannot do that if you are busy reading a text or reaching for your lunch. If you absolutely must get something while your car is temporarily stopped, always keep at least one hand on the wheel, but it's best to wait until you're out of traffic and safely parked to do so.
When you are keeping your hands on the wheel, you are also keeping them away from distractions. Avoid the temptation to check your phone, grab a snack, or do anything else that takes attention away from your vehicle and the road. Being mindful of your surroundings, checking your mirrors and generally paying attention to your car and others ensures you can anticipate and react when you need to.
Maintain Your Vehicle
Ensure your tires and the rest of your vehicle are in excellent shape. Don't risk having your brakes or other equipment fail you when you need them most. Ensure all of your taillights are working correctly and are free of debris such as dirt or snow. When you do have to stop, other cars have to be able to see you. Consider pumping your brakes to warn other vehicles of a slowdown, especially when visibility is reduced by fog or bright sun.
Finally, make sure you have enough gas just in case you're stuck in traffic for an extended period. Being stalled in the middle of the road can put you and your vehicle at increased risk for accidents.
Straighten Your Wheels
How you stop is often as important as why you stop. When you pull into the middle of an intersection to make a left turn, keep your wheels straight until you are ready to execute. This ensures that your vehicle is pushed ahead if you are rear-ended rather than catapulted into oncoming traffic. If you must stop on a hill, keep your wheels straight at all times. If you must park on a hill, turn your wheels toward the curb if you're going down. Turn them away from the curb if your vehicle on the way up. This can ensure that you car doesn't slide into an undesirable and unsafe direction, should something unexpected happen.
Pull-Over — Way Over
If you must stop on the side of a road or highway, pull as far off the roadway as possible. Find a wide shoulder away from distractions such as bridges and hazards such as merge lanes. Try to choose somewhere that provides maximum visibility. Avoid the downside of a hill or corners where traffic coming up behind can have difficulty seeing you. Put your hazard lights on, and do not exit the vehicle while traffic is moving close to you unless you absolutely have to for safety reasons.
Stay Safe On The Road
Standstill accidents are serious, but they are not unavoidable. Practice these tips to keep you and your occupants safe when you must stop your vehicle.