Stopped-Vehicle Crashes Result in Hundreds of Fatalities Each Year

Now and then we see reports of close calls involving vehicles parked on the shoulder of the road and drivers who barely escape harm when their car is hit by another vehicle. It happened to a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 15 near Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in April. The trooper’s body camera recorded video of a suspected drunk driver slamming into the back of his stopped patrol SUV.

The trooper was not hurt, but a recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says hundreds of people are killed and thousands are injured each year in crashes involving stopped or disabled vehicles. The study, which was commissioned by a company that makes enhanced hazard lighting systems, says the stopped vehicles may not have stood out enough to alert drivers to their presence.

This study identifies a part of the road safety equation that doesn’t get much attention, despite the size of the problem,” David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, says in the report.

Impact Research, a transportation data analysis firm, estimated that 566 people were killed and 14,371 were injured annually from 2016 to 2018 in crashes involving a disabled vehicle in which visibility was likely a factor. In 95% of the inconspicuous-vehicle crashes, a vehicle traveling down the roadway collided with a stationary vehicle.

Each year, this type of crash kills 300 pedestrians who are leaving, working on, or returning to a stopped vehicle, the report says. More than half of the deaths and almost 20% of serious injuries occur when a vehicle strikes a pedestrian.

The researchers came to their conclusions by analyzing police reports from Florida car accidents to determine the percentages of different types of collisions that involved a stopped vehicle that was difficult for other drivers to see. They applied those percentages to a broader data set from federal crash databases, which include codes denoting crashes that involve stopped or disabled vehicles.

Guarding Against Stopped-Vehicle Crashes

“These crashes illustrate the potential value of stopped-vehicle-ahead warnings, which are already provided by some navigation apps and could be integrated to work with advanced driver assistance features,” Zuby says. “They’re also a reminder of why we put so much emphasis on good headlights as a vital crash avoidance technology.”

Other Insurance Institute suggestions for improving safety around stopped and disabled vehicles include:

  • Improving hazard lights so they flash brighter and more frequently and are triggered automatically in the event a vehicle is disabled. Nearly a third of the collisions in the study involved a stationary vehicle that had its hazard lights on.
  • Adjusting move over laws which require drivers to change lanes to give police and emergency services vehicles more room to work. Though such laws exist in all 50 U.S. states, first responders continue to be killed and injured in secondary crashes. The U.S. Government Accountability Office announced in June 2019 that it would study how to make these laws more effective.
  • Better traffic management practices, such as dispatching two response vehicles to every highway incident and using one primarily to shield personnel working on the disabled vehicle from oncoming traffic, as well as increasing visibility with flares, safety cones, and flashing lights.
  • Vehicle-to-vehicle communication, which would enable vehicles to exchange information about their speed, location, and heading. This technology is not yet available.

How Do Stopped or Disabled Vehicle Crashes Occur?


The IIHS study specifically focuses on car accidents that might have resulted because the stationary vehicle wasn’t conspicuous enough.

But an inconspicuous vehicle is only one potential cause of a stopped-vehicle car accident. As the Las Vegas accident involving the highway patrol trooper indicates, stopped-vehicle crashes also occur because of other drivers’ negligence.

The type of negligence that could cause a driver to hit a vehicle stopped in the road or to drift out of the lane and slam into a car or pedestrian stopped on the side of the road includes:

Inclement weather that makes roads slick and reduces visibility can also contribute to stopped-vehicle accidents. A driver may be driving too fast for road or weather conditions and be unable to slow down appropriately when encountering a stopped vehicle.

In car accident cases involving the types of negligence listed above, the injured driver or pedestrian may be entitled to seek compensation from the at-fault driver, especially if the injured person had pulled their car off of the roadway. At Sam & Ash Injury Law in Las Vegas, our car accident attorneys are always ready to move forward with a claim on behalf of our client seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and more.

Sometimes, a vehicle has become disabled because of a manufacturing defect. If evidence indicated that this was the case, we can explore the possibility of a product liability claim against the manufacturer along with the personal injury claim against the negligent driver.

Contact a Car Accident Lawyer

If a careless or reckless motorist crashed into your vehicle while it was stopped or disabled, you shouldn’t be left with medical bills and other expenses caused by that driver’s negligence. At Sam & Ash Injury Law, our dedicated Las Vegas car accident lawyers can help you pursue compensation for your injuries and other losses with no out-of-pocket cost to you. Our trusted attorneys have recovered more than $400 million for accident victims throughout Nevada. We only get paid if we obtain a settlement or court award for you.

Sam & Ash Injury Law is committed to doing What’s Right for car accident victims. For a free review of your case, call us today or reach out online. We are available 24/7 to respond to your needs.

Author: Ash Watkins

Ash started her legal career defending insurance companies against injury victims. She saw how insurance companies treated people who had legitimate injury claims. But she also saw how notoriously sleazy the personal injury lawyers were. Neither side was focused on the injured person, so she decided to do something about it.