Avoiding Nighttime Highway Shoulder Accidents

Some of the worst accidents we see as Texas car accident lawyers are highway shoulder accidents. The high speed of the moving car combined with an impact with a stopped vehicle produce some horrific crashes that can be fatal for occupants. Even if the driver realizes his error and corrects it at the last second a high-impact side swipe accident can occur. They most commonly occur at night when the driver of the striking vehicle may be sleepy or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But even when you take alcohol out of the equation, they still seem to happen a little too frequently. Thus, it is important for drivers to understand why they happen so that these types of deadly auto collisions can be avoided.

Why do drivers hit stopped cars along the highway at night?

There are several factors that may lead to nighttime highway shoulder accidents, including:

  • Drowsy driving
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Distracted driving
  • Poor lighting conditions, and;
  • The “moth effect.”

Drowsy Driving at Night

Anytime you are on the road at night, you run a risk of becoming sleepy and engaging in drowsy driving. Most people naturally sleep at night. Additionally, the road at night can have a calming or soothing effect on drivers. The combination of the two can have deadly consequences. Drowsy driving decreases situational awareness and opens the door to drifting off not just to sleep, but off the roadway itself. If you know you will be driving at night, prepare by getting plenty of sleep in advance, and bringing caffeinated drinks to help keep you awake.  If you cannot wake up, get off the road and get some rest.

Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs

Little discussion should be required for readers to understand how the presence of alcohol or drugs can alter a driver’s responsiveness, alertness, and awareness. Driving under the influence is illegal for a reason. Since more people go out “partying” at night, you have a higher risk of someone whose faculties have been diminished by drugs or alcohol being on the road.

Distracted Driving

When there are fewer cars on the road (such as is often the case at night) drivers are more tempted to pull out their phones, switch the radio, or do anything other than focus on the road to entertain themselves along the way. This can result in distracted driving accidents. Additionally, if there was a wreck leading up to why you are stopped on the side of the road anyway, the activity outside the vehicle may cause driver distractions as well.

Poor Lighting Conditions

Many of the highways in Texas have lighting at exits and key points but have very little lighting in between.  When you are out in the country particularly, you may be sitting in the dark. In these situations, it is extremely important that you be proactive to park as far from the road as possible and light your vehicle as much as you can using lights, flares or whatever you have to draw attention to your vehicle.

The Moth Effect

Nighttime driving has a lulling effect on sober and intoxicated drivers alike. As a driver is kind of lulled into this inattentive trance, lights can have a mesmerizing effect. The driver assumes they are simply other vehicles moving at the same speed as they are and veers towards them as if they are following a moving vehicle. If they do not realize that the car is not moving in time, they can cause a very serious rear-end accident. The driver’s ability to react may be further slowed by the first four factors as well.

Avoiding Nighttime Shoulder Accidents

The best way to avoid a nighttime shoulder accident is to stay off the shoulder at all costs. First and foremost, if the car has a flat but can still move, get it off the highway and onto a slower-moving road before stopping. If there’s no way to get off the highway, pull off, but park the vehicle out as far from the traveled portion of the road as you can to avoid being sideswiped by inattentive approaching vehicles.

Do not Stay in the Car

If your car is stuck on the side of the highway, do not sit in the car. The best advice is to first make your car as visible as possible and second get away from the vehicle.

Making the Car Visible

If you are going to be traveling anyway, check your headlights, taillights, and emergency flashers to be sure they all work. Then, if you are stopped on the shoulder, use the emergency flashers. If you can leave the interior light on, this can help draw more attention to the fact that something is wrong. Additionally, before you go on the trip, make sure you have flares, and emergency cones on the side of the road. Having a yellow safety jacket is also a good idea.  The more you light up the area before your car, the less likely it is to get hit.

Get Away from the Vehicle

If you are in the middle of the road, it is safer to stay in your car. However, if your car is stopped on the shoulder, staying in the vehicle is unsafe. The best thing to do is get off the road as far from the vehicle as you can. Walk away from your vehicle in the opposite direction from which it is likely to be knocked if hit. Some of the most severe accidents are pedestrian accidents when they are hit by flying debris or impacted vehicles after a shoulder accident occurs. Get at least 100 feet up the road from the vehicle so you are out of range and get away from the lanes of travel.




If you have a personal injury case and would like to know whether it is something that our law firm can help you with, please fill out the form to the right and submit your information or pick up the phone and call us between 8:30 AM and 4:00 PM on Monday through Thursday and 8:30 AM  and 5:00 PM on Friday and out intake team can go help evaluate your case and determine who the best person is for you to talk to about your case. Consultations are 100% free and you have no obligation to hire us.


Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., rooted in Christian values, exclusively handles personal injury cases, advocating for the rights of accident and negligence victims. Our Houston-based team, dedicated to compassion and excellence, handles cases across car accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, and other types of cases with a commitment to personalized care. Upholding integrity and client-focused service, we strive for impactful legal outcomes. For a detailed understanding of our approach and team, visit our attorneys page.

Contact us for a free case assessment.