Why You Should Stay Buckled Up In Your Car If You Find Yourself On A Freeway Shoulder

Jan 26, 2021, 10:41 PM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – It’s an awful feeling to be immobilized in your car on the side of a bustling highway, especially in snowy weather. Utah Department of Transportation officials shared why it’s safest for drivers to remain in their vehicles if they find themselves in an emergency.

Dale Talbot drives a big ole truck all over Utah’s freeways, looking for people who find themselves in a car crash or need roadside assistance on the shoulder of a freeway.

“Anybody who’s out of gas, has a flat tire, maybe needs to jump-start,” he described. “Anything you need on the interstate, we can help you.”

He’s been on the job for three years and said he loves it. “When you’re traveling down the freeway, you feel like you’re driving a monster truck,” he said with a smile.

Dale Talbot says his UDOT Incident Management truck is equipped with anything he could possibly need to help someone on the side of the road. (KSL-TV)

Talbot and the truck can make it through any type of weather. “We can actually push semi-trucks and we do it often up Parleys Canyon,” he said. “Wherever you need to go, you’re gonna get there in this truck.”

Whatever the circumstance, Talbot is ready to help anyone. “Every car you pull up on the freeway, they’re excited to see you. When you jump out of the truck they’re like, ‘Thank goodness you’re here to help me,'” he said.

Talbot has earned a title. “A lot of people will call us like ‘Highway’s Angels,’ you know, or the ‘Rescue Rangers,'” he said.

He’s with Incident Management, a UDOT sponsored program. As a trained first responder, he’s seen it all. “So working eight hours a day, five days a week on the freeway, you’re bound to roll up on severe crashes,” he said.

He’s seen cases like one the Utah Department of Public Safety shared from February 2019. The driver, Mark, was in a pileup on I-15. He had already unbuckled and was sitting on the side of the road. When he called 911, the dispatcher told him to put his seatbelt back on. A couple of minutes later, his car was struck by oncoming traffic several times.

Mark said, “When I hugged my wife and kids all I could think about was how thankful I was that your dispatcher reminded me to stay buckled up because today could have ended so differently otherwise.”

UDOT spokesperson John Gleason urged people who find themselves on the side of the highway needing assistance for any reason to stay in their car and stay buckled.

“Because even if it’s a flat tire or something that you don’t feel is an emergency, if you’re immobilized on the side of the freeway, that is an emergency,” Gleason said, even if you’re tempted to get out of your vehicle to survey the damage or fix it yourself.

“If you’re not out there with law enforcement, if you’re not out there with the proper lights [and] flashing signals to warn people that you’re there, then they may not see you,” he explained.

Incident Management is a UDOT-sponsored program giving free service to Utah drivers who’ve been in a car crash or who need roadside assistance. (KSL-TV)

He said the decision to stay in your car could be a matter of life and death. “The results can be terrible. I’ve seen it firsthand and they can be deadly,” he said.

Gleason said this message is especially important during the winter when many are driving on icy roads. “If you hit a slick spot and you’ve crashed or you’ve gone off to the side of the road, somebody else could hit that and they could hit you,” Gleason said.

He recounted a crash several years ago in which a woman pulled off on the side of the road after hitting an icy spot on the road. “She got out of the vehicle to kind of check out the damage and to make some phone calls and unfortunately there was a semi that hit that same slick spot and she, unfortunately, didn’t make it,” he recalled. “I’ll never forget the sights of that day. It was just heartbreaking.”

By staying inside the vehicle, Gleason said drivers keep both themselves and other drivers, who are often distracted by cars on the side of the road, safe. “You present a danger not only to yourself but to others as well, so call 911,” he simply stated.

Dispatchers will contact Incident Management and send a highway angel like Talbot and his monster IMT truck to whoever is stranded on the side of the road. “They’ll help you out, put up the proper traffic signals and lights just to let people know that there is someone that’s been involved in a crash here,” Gleason said.

“They’re also there to save lives and it’s happened many times before where they’ve given lifesaving measures to people that have been involved in crashes or people that suffer medical issues out on the road,” he explained.

Gleason says the freeway is no place for pedestrians and encourages drivers to get off at the next available exit if possible. Otherwise, pull off to the shoulder. He said this is the best chance of keeping everyone safe and alive.

People like Talbot are anxious to be of service. “I go home every day knowing that I’ve made somebody’s day and they’re back on the freeway,” he said.

Gleason said this is a free service to anyone in Utah. UDOT has about 30 IMT trucks that service freeways all over the state in Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Washington, Summit counties and in the St. George area.

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Why You Should Stay Buckled Up In Your Car If You Find Yourself On A Freeway Shoulder