RALEIGH — Abandoned cars are a proliferating problem on Wake County roadways and they are not just an eyesore; they can be a serious hazard.
Friday night, a gasoline tanker truck exploded on the Raleigh beltline after it collided with an abandoned vehicle left partly on the shoulder and partly on the roadway itself.
The blaze closed a large section of the beltline, and flames could be seen from a wide swath of eastern Raleigh.
Most of us drive by abandoned vehicles every day without giving them a second thought. Abandoned cars are flooding Wake County highways and authorities say they are accidents waiting to happen.
"Especially at night when you don't see the lights and you want to get on the shoulder for some reason or another, you don't see the vehicle until you are on the shoulder," said Shawn Eller of the N.C. Highway Patrol, "and then it is too late."
The patrol has called in the tow trucks for more than 500 cars this year, and they do not handle vehicles inside the city of Raleigh limits.
Some drivers leave their vehicles at roadside due to running out of gas, or having a mechanical problem.
"The shoulder is there for safety's sake," says Jane Jurek of the Raleigh Police Department. "If the car is on the shoulder and close to the road, it could be a danger for pedestrians, for motorists and for bicyclists."
In the case of Friday night's accident, the car had been stolen. Had authorities seen it, it would have been removed.
If you do need to steer your car off the road, pull off onto the righthand side, as far off the roadway as possible.
You may have noticed bright squares affixed to a rear view mirror or the back window of a car at roadside -- that is a signal owners have 48 hours to move the vehicle before it is towed -- a very expensive proposition.