17:00 PM

The Worst Combination: Stranded Motorists and Icy Roads

Minnesota's First Reported Traffic Fatality of 2023

Just one week ago, motorists were reminded of just how dangerous being stranded on the roadside can be when a 36-year-old man was killed when he was struck by a pickup while standing outside his disabled car in Wright County, MN. Minnesota State Patrol said roads were icy at the time of the incident.

"At only three days into the New Year, with plenty of winter weather ahead of us, this crash highlights the need for every motorist to practice good driving behavior," says Meredith Mitts, Public Affairs Specialist for AAA – The Auto Club Group. "In the winter, there are extra precautions drivers can and should take, but one thing remains consistent year round: If you see a disabled vehicle on the side of the road, slow down and move over.

"Motorists are struck and killed on the roadside in preventable crashes all the time," added Mitts "On average, one tow truck driver is killed every other week, while working on the roadside. However, the victims also include stranded motorists just like we saw here January 3. Nationwide, nearly 350 people are struck and killed outside disabled vehicles each year."

AAA's Tips to Protect Roadside Workers and Stranded Motorists:

For Drivers:

  • Remain alert. Avoid distractions and focus on driving.
  • Keep an eye out for emergency vehicles – including tow trucks – that have their lights on as well as cars that have their flashers on. Move over one lane when you see them and if you can't move over, slow down to safely pass them.
  • Be a good passenger. Help identify roadway issues and remind the driver to slow down and move over.
  • Watch for people on the roadside. People may be in or near a disabled vehicle. Just because you don't immediately see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

For Stranded Motorists:

  • Pull as far over on the shoulder as safely possible to create more distance between your vehicle and passing traffic.
  • Turn your hazard lights on so other drivers are aware you are there.
  • If you are able to safely make it to the next exit or stopping point, do so.
  • Call for assistance via phone, website or the AAA Mobile app.
  • Remain with your vehicle as long as it's safe to do so.
  • If getting out of your vehicle, watch the oncoming traffic for a good time to exit, and remain alert and close to your vehicle. Avoid turning your back to traffic whenever possible.

Current weather advisories indicate drivers my encounter slippery roads and reduced visibility through tomorrow morning.

"The roadside is an extremely dangerous place to be for anyone, especially in the winter, regardless of if you are an emergency responder or motorist with a disabled vehicle," Mitts continued. "Drivers who make the resolution to move over for all vehicles on the roadside, can save lives and help ensure everyone makes it home safely to their families."

AAA Winter Driving Tips

  • Before starting out, remove ice and snow from the entire care, mirrors and lights so you have clear driving visibility.
  • Don't use cruise control in precipitation and freezing temperatures.
  • Remember that four-wheel drive helps you get going quicker, but it won't help you stop any faster.
  • Familiarize yourself with you vehicle's breaking system. Drivers with anti-lock brakes should apply firm, constant pressure while those without may need to pump the pedal in order to avoid loss of traction while stopping. (Antilock brakes became standard as of 2004, only older vehicles might not have them.)
  • Always drive at the speed that matches the prevailing visibility, traffic and road conditions – even if that means driving below the posted speed limit.
  • Compensate for reduced traction by increasing your following distances (normally three to four seconds) to eight to ten seconds.
  • Allow sufficient room for maintenance vehicles and plows, stay at least 200 feet back and, if you need to pass, go to the other vehicle's left. (Never pass a plow.)
  • Watch for icy surfaces on bridges and intersections, even if the rest of the road seems to be in good condition.
  • If you get stuck in snow or ice, straighten the wheel and accelerate slowly. Add sand or cat litter under the drive wheels to help avoid spinning tires.
  • If your tires lose traction, continue to look and steer in the direction you want to go. If the wheels start to spin or slide while going up a hill, ease off the accelerator slightly and then gently resume speed.
  • If you see flashing lights, slow down and move over. Give the other vehicle as much space as possible and watch for stranded motorists and emergency personnel who may not be able to see you.