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Study Finds Vehicle-Mounted Safety Signs Effective at Reducing Roadside Collisions

Vehicles moving over 95% higher when technology present

AAA-The Auto Club Group continues its "Move Over for Me" campaign by sharing a new study that examines the risk of being on the roadside and the effectiveness of various tools designed to alert approaching drivers.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety conducted two field studies on busy roads to determine the effectiveness of various countermeasures like vehicle-mounted variable message signs (VMS), cones, flares, and more. The Foundation determined that VMS was very effective.

The odds of a vehicle moving over were 95-percent higher when the VMS was used. Passenger vehicles were more responsive to the VMS than trucks or buses, although both were more likely to move over when VMS was active than when not.

The foundation also examined cones, flares, and emergency flashing light patterns. Researchers found these led to significant lane shifts by drivers but were less effective at reducing speeds or increasing the distance to the passing vehicles that did not change lanes.


The results from these field studies suggest that using VMS, nighttime light patterns, cones, or flares can positively impact the behaviors of passing motorists under most circumstances. AAA strongly recommends service vehicles or fleets utilize these features, to protect these roadside heroes.

"AAA will be sharing this research with impacted industries and safety advocates in hopes that they will adopt these lifesaving countermeasures," said Gene LaDoucer, regional director of public affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "At the same time, The Auto Club Group is working with lawmakers in several states to require drivers to move over for everyone, including disabled motorists."

Currently, all 50 states require drivers to move over for first responders and tow trucks. Yet only nine states have a law requiring drivers to move over for a disabled vehicle with its hazard lights on. AAA is working with North Dakota lawmakers in effort to pass HB 1141, which would expand current protections to all disabled vehicles along interstate and multi-lane highways in the state.

Passing the bill would help address a tragic trend. Nationwide, nearly 350 people are struck and killed outside a disabled vehicle each year.

"The roadside is equally dangerous for a driver with a flat tire, or the person called in to change it," said LaDoucer. "While we're strong advocates for laws that protect tow truck drivers and first responders, AAA believes everyone should be afforded the same protection."

Dangerous Occupation

Helping stranded motorists should not be one of America's most lethal jobs, but it is. On average, two emergency responders, including tow workers, are struck and killed every month by a driver who fails to obey the law by moving over to an adjacent lane and allowing the roadside rescuers the space to operate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Roadside crashes are notably deadly for tow workers. Government data shows that tow operators are killed at a rate of almost 43 deaths per 100,000 workers, compared to just three for all other industries.

As part of its research, the Foundation also surveyed tow workers, emergency responders, and road maintenance workers on their experiences with roadside jobs. Of those surveyed, 60 percent had experienced a near miss while working at the roadside, while an astonishing 15 percent had survived being hit by a passing vehicle.

"These heroes put their lives on the line every time they help someone on the roadside," said LaDoucer. "We ask that drivers minimize distractions and constantly pay attention to the road ahead of you. Doing so could save a life."

About AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety

Established in 1947 by AAA, the Foundation for Traffic Safety is a nonprofit, publicly funded 501(c)(3) charitable research and educational organization. The AAA Foundation's mission is to prevent traffic deaths and injuries by researching their causes and by educating the public about strategies to prevent crashes and reduce injuries when they do occur. This research informs the development of educational materials for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users.