What to Do If You Have Car Trouble on an Interstate

Recent fatalities highlight the danger of pulling over to the shoulder

Drivers often pull over to the shoulder of interstate highways for car trouble, but Virginia transportation officials are warning drivers to avoid doing so in light of recent roadside deaths.

A tractor-trailer struck and killed a man who was helping to change a tire on Interstate 66 in Warren County, Virginia, Tuesday night. Virginia State Police said the white tractor-trailer drove off.

Just days before, 23-year-old Jhonna Caballero was killed when a car struck her while she stopped to help a driver who had been involved in a crash on Route 50 in Prince George's County, Maryland.

“I pass by people on the side of the road every morning on my way up here that are changing tires, looking under their hoods, and it makes me nervous,” said Kirsten Cape, a flatbed operator for Henry's Wrecker Service in Falls Church.

One of Cape's colleagues nearly died in April after being struck on I-395 while responding to a wreck.

“It’s hard to process it. Even now, knowing that he’s doing alright, it’s still one of those - that could’ve been me,” Cape said.

VDOT officials said drivers who experience car trouble should do the following:

  • Exit the interstate
  • If you cannot take an exit, move to the far shoulder
  • Do not get out of the car 
  • Dial #77

“Call that number and their entire job is to come out and to keep you as safe as possible,” VDOT spokesperson Ellen Kamilakis said.

Kamilakis said drivers should also be aware of Virginia's move-over laws and move over a lane away from any flashing lights or cars they see on the side of the road.

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