New law: Drivers in fender benders must exit freeway
If you happen to be in a fender bender on Utah's freeways, you need to pull off onto the nearest exit to sort things out.
A new law calls for drivers in minor accidents with no injuries and drivable vehicles to quickly assess the situation, get into the emergency lane and drive slowly to the next exit. From there, drivers can call 911.
New signs instructing drivers to do just that were unveiled Thursday during a Utah Department of Public Safety news conference.
The signs are going up now in the Salt Lake City area, and will be erected later along Interstates 15, 80 and 215 in other areas of the state.
Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, who authored the new law which became effective in July said freeway accidents are dangerous even after they happen because of secondary crashes caused by people getting out of their cars, gawking and rubbernecking.
"We have so many problems with protecting our troopers, protecting the public, keeping people safe at the site of accident, that we have changed the law," Hutchings said.
If unsure where the next safe spot to exit the freeway is, drivers can call a 911 dispatcher who will provide that information.
"We recognized how important moving these minor crashes off the roadway is in terms of relieving congestion and improving the safety and efficiency of the flow of traffic," said Robert Hull, Utah Department of Transportation's director of traffic and safety. "We're protecting the people involved with the crash and those responding to it."
Last year, 21 Utah Highway Patrol troopers were hit while responding to road-side accidents. A group of 21 uniformed troopers attended the news conference to illustrate that point.
Last weekend's snow storm resulted in three troopers being hit. A driver also died during that storm.
UHP Col. Daniel Fuhr said the fatality occurred when the driver, who had been involved in a crash, got out of the vehicle.
Fuhr added that state agencies have done a great job in making sure the public has safe roadways.
"But they're very dangerous when they become parking lots. It's very dangerous for pedestrians to be out walking around on the interstate," Fuhr said. "That's not what they are designed or meant for."