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Traffic & Safety Reminder

October 14, 2010

Proper Use of Breakdown Lanes

Stopping, standing or parking on a controlled access highway in the state of NH is not only illegal, more importantly it is dangerous. NH has six controlled access highways across the state:  Interstates 93, 95 and 89, as well as the Spaulding Turnpike, the Everett Turnpike and Route 101.  All controlled access highways have breakdown lanes for emergency stopping, when a situation arises where it is dangerous for the driver of the vehicle to continue driving, or where the driver needs to stop to report a crime or hazardous situation. 

Situations not considered “emergencies” are stopping to answer or make a call using a cell phone, stopping to change drivers, or stopping to take scenic photographs.  Many drivers also stop along the highways to use the woods as a restroom. This is also illegal.

Stopping to make a phone call or answer a phone call, unless that call itself is an emergency, is not allowed.  An emergency call may be considered calling E911 for an accident, an erratic driver or a crime in progress.  A call that seems important or an emergency to the driver does not make it an emergency.  Pulling over to talk is safer than doing so while driving, but it is better to go to the next exit or rest area.

When a driver stop or parks his/her vehicle on a controlled access highway, he/she will often exit the vehicle.  Doing so on a highway where other vehicles are passing within several feet at 65 MPH can be extremely dangerous.  It is also dangerous for drivers to reenter traffic moving at rates of 65 MPH or faster.

Stopping on a controlled access highway will usually cause other drivers to call E911 or the State Police to report a broken down vehicle.  This causes police to respond to the “broken down” vehicle only to find the vehicle had stopped for a non-emergency or to even find the vehicle gone.  This is a waste of police time and taxpayers' dollars.   

Stopping on a highway during bad weather is even more dangerous and potentially deadly.   Inclement weather causes poor visibility for drivers and poor traction for vehicles.  Drivers unable to see during bad weather can easily drive over the white fog line and collide with a vehicle parked in the breakdown lane, causing injury to drivers and passengers.

Here are guidelines for driving on controlled access highways and using emergency breakdown lanes:

  • Stop only for emergencies (flat tires, mechanical failure, use of cell phone to report a crime or other emergency).
  • Pull off as far as possible into the breakdown lane.
  • Use flashing hazards to warn other drivers.
  • Stay in your vehicle with seatbelts on.
  • If you must exit the vehicle, do so on the passenger side, stay on the passenger side of the vehicle and move to the far side of the guardrail if possible.
  • Do not stop to make a non-emergency phone call, to switch drivers, to take a restroom break or to take photographs.
  • If you make an emergency stop, when pulling back into traffic, increase to traveling speed in the breakdown lane before merging with traffic.

Please drive carefully and stay alert.

View NH RSA 265:69 for additional information.


New Hampshire Department of Safety | 33 Hazen Drive | Concord, NH 03305
TDD Access: Relay NH 1-800-735-2964
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