car pulled off on highway shoulder for emergencyHighway shoulders serve several purposes. First, they are designed to support the road surface and allow for run-off of water from the roadway. Second, they provide space for law enforcement to safely pull vehicles over for traffic infractions. Finally, shoulders provide an area for disabled vehicles to pull out of traffic in order to seek assistance. It is against the law to use them as lanes of travel, even when traffic on the highway is stopped. Doing so is very dangerous and can cause an accident.

What Happens When Drivers Misuse Use Highway Shoulders

There are consequences for using the highway shoulder as anything other than an emergency pull-off. In Virginia, these consequences include:

  • Tickets. Riding the shoulder or using the shoulder as a lane is illegal, except for emergency vehicles or official highway use. When caught, a lawbreaker can be issued a moving violation ticket for $25 to $150, depending on the circumstances.
  • Road rage. Every time a driver uses the shoulder to pass someone who is patiently waiting their turn, drivers who are complying with the law could become enraged and feel vengeful. This might include not letting the driver over when they try to merge back into traffic, not caring if they are being blocked by another driver or a semi-truck, and cheering when they wind up being forced to veer into a ditch.
  • Accident injuries. Although it is illegal, selfish, and inconsiderate, drivers may try to bypass traffic by using the shoulder. Pulling off of or onto the shoulder from the highway could lead to a crash, either on the road or on the shoulder with a disabled vehicle in the lane. 
  • Prosecution. The shoulder is specifically designated for emergencies and emergency crews. If a driver disregards this rule and winds up blocking an emergency vehicle from getting to its destination, he could not only suffer legal action, but he may also be liable for any further injuries or damages sustained as a result of the emergency crew’s delay.
  • Jail. If a shoulder driver’s actions directly result in the loss of life by collision, delaying emergency vehicles, or other means, then he could be prosecuted for endangerment or negligent homicide.

When These Consequences Don’t Pay Your Damages

Although there are defined rules and consequences for reckless shoulder driving, they, unfortunately, don’t protect your family from physical and financial suffering once you’ve experienced an accident. Fortunately, that’s why we’re here.

If you were injured by a negligent driver who was using the highway shoulder illegally, you can hold them accountable for your damages. Reach out to our office in Front Royal, Warrenton, or Culpeper to schedule your free initial consultation with one of our experienced car accident injury lawyers. We are here for you. 

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