Local drivers urged to practice roadside safety

Keri Thornton | Daily Press

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said roads like East Fourth Street are unsafe to properly pull over during a traffic stop. Driver's can active their hazard lights and continue on until they've reached a much safer area.

July is National Roadside Safety Awareness Month, and insurance companies and law enforcement officers are urging drivers and pedestrians to stay vigilant during the deadliest months of the year.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the deadliest months for drivers and pedestrians are July through October. Traffic volume and speed, distracted drivers, and the additional distraction caused by a roadway incident leave firefighters and others working the scenes highly vulnerable.

According to firehero.org, 20 first responders have been struck and killed while working vehicle incidents this year.

Cherokee County Sheriff Jason Chennault said it is imperative that drivers are cautious on the road when emergency vehicles are approaching.

"Be aware and be as safe as possible. Try to pull off the road where you're not a traffic hazard yourself, and never pull to the left when you see the red and blue lights and sirens," said Chennault.

When it comes to getting stopped by an officer while driving, Chennault said most law enforcement personnel are understanding if a driver can't immediately pull over due to safety concerns.

"They're going to want you to pull over to the safest place possible, so go within reason to pull over into a driveway or to a business to get off the road," he said.

Chennault advised drivers should turn on their hazard lights immediately once they know they're getting pulled over.

"That's a great indicator to the officers or deputies that you don't feel safe pulling over right then and there. It's also a good indicator for other drivers in the immediate area," said Chennault. "You can also roll your window down and wave, but don't ever speed up."

Maglite is a sponsor of National Roadside Safety Awareness Month, and the company strongly urges drivers to be prepared in case of a mishap while on the road.

"What is ideal is a flashlight that has a traffic/safety wand attached - a translucent plastic cone that fits over the flashlight's head and glows when the light is turned on. A red color traffic/safety wand is generally best for roadside safety," it says on the Pedestrian Safety Institute's website. "Most people have seen light wands at airports, where ground crews routinely use them to guide planes into and out of gates, and they are used by many police departments to direct traffic. A flashlight with a traffic/safety wand should be considered an essential item of safety equipment for every vehicle, and should be carried by everyone who walks by the side of a road at night."

If a vehicle becomes disabled while in transit, Chennault said the driver needs to try to get the vehicle off the roadway and make sure it's not a hazard for other vehicles.

Devin Gordon, owner/operator at Cherokee County's Wrecker Service, said a vehicle can sit for up to 48 hours, but it's different for every case.

"They say 48 hours, but I've seen them sit a lot longer," he said. "I've also seen them moved really quickly when they're impeding traffic."

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