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What to Do When Your Right Wheels Run onto a Soft Shoulder

  • Driving Tips
  • Renee Martin
  • 6 minutes

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You might be asked what the best way is to get back on the highway if your right wheels run onto a soft shoulder for your DMV written test. Even if you aren’t, you need to know this as a driver. So let’s dive right into it

What is a soft shoulder?

Soft shoulders are generally made of gravel, packed dirt, or a mix of the two. This is very different from the material used to build the road. The potential for danger comes from the fact that these two road surfaces are so different from each other.

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What does the soft shoulder sign mean?

A Soft Shoulder sign is for drivers to know that these two surfaces are different and that driving on the shoulder is probably dangerous and unstable.

Why you should stay off soft shoulders while driving

Not only is driving on a soft roadside dangerous, but it’s also against the law. So whenever you see a traffic sign for soft shoulders, keep that in mind. You should only drive on the soft roadside in an emergency, and even then, you should be ready for your wheels to lose traction when you move into a soft roadside lane. There are also risks if you try to stop on a soft shoulder, especially if two wheels of your car are on the soft shoulder while the other two are on the road.


Because the two sides of the car have different levels of traction, your car may start to skid, and you could lose control. Most of the time, soft shoulders are lower than the road surface, so you may also have trouble steering when at least two of your wheels are on a soft shoulder.

What is the best way to get back on the highway if your right wheels run onto a soft shoulder?

However careful you are, sometimes you may find your tires dropping off the road. If this happens, don’t worry, you can get back on the highway quite easily.

If your right wheels drift onto a soft shoulder, the safest way to get back onto the highway is to ease your foot off the gas pedal and brake gently.

Why you need to be careful if your tires go off the road

While driving down the road, you might not give it much thought if one or two of your wheels go off the road. You might think you just need to turn around and get back on the highway. You’d be wrong to think this way!

What you mustn’t do is just as crucial as what you must do if you find yourself in this predicament. A risky situation exists if you are driving partially off the road and the pavement is at least two inches higher than the wayside. If you don’t know what to do after losing control of your vehicle, you could crash or even roll it over.

What you must do if your tires drop off the road

Before anything else, try to remain calm. You can bring this under control. What you do after that depends on your particular situation, but these are the basic steps you’ll need to take.

Keep looking ahead

The urge to pay attention to your now-off-road tires will be strong. But it’s important to keep your eyes on what’s in front of you. Look straight ahead because there could be things on the side of the road that you need to avoid.

Steer over cautiously

The tires that are off the road will move away from the pavement as you steer. At the same time, the tires that are on the road will move to the edge of the pavement as you do this. This will prevent your off-road tires from scratching the edge of the curb. You may have trouble getting back onto the road if the tires are damaged.

Go easy on the gas pedal

Don’t slam on the brakes; instead, begin to ease off the throttle pedal. Instead of braking, let the car slow down on its own. If you have to brake, do it gently. When your tires are on two distinct surfaces, hard braking might cause your vehicle to skid.

Slow your car

Slow down to 25 MPH or less before attempting to return to the road. Slowing down to this speed allows you to re-establish all four wheels on the roadway without losing control of your vehicle.

Get off the highway if possible

If you have the space and no obstructions in your way, drive entirely off the road. Go as far as you can before stopping your vehicle. Then, when you’re ready, get back on the road.

Get back on the road once it’s safe

Before you get back on the road, there should be a gap in traffic. If there are vehicles in your lane, an adjacent lane, or an incoming lane, don’t try to get back on the road. Once the path is free, do a quarter-turn to the left and return to the road. Steer to the right as soon as all four tires are on the road to stay in your lane.

Get Roadside assistance if needed

If you can’t safely get back on the road, drive as far off the road as you can, then stop and use your Way App to call for Roadside Assistance.

Roadside Assistance, including towing and Uber, are available as part of Way.com‘s Way+ subscription plan.

Can you drive on a soft shoulder?

Driving on soft shoulders is not recommended in most circumstances. It risks your safety because you may lose control if the traction between your car’s wheels is inconsistent. You may have trouble steering, braking, and restarting the car after it stops.

Another reason to avoid going down a soft road shoulder is that it is usually lower in height than the surrounding roadway. The only time you should be on a soft shoulder is when an emergency vehicle needs to pass by or if your vehicle requires emergency service.

If your vehicle is incapacitated or has lost some component of operational capabilities, it is always preferable to have it out of the way of traffic flow. In such instances, ensure that your vehicle is well off the road surface to avoid being hit by any vehicles still in the traffic flow.

We hope you’ve found the answer to the commonly asked question, “What to do when your right wheels run onto a soft shoulder?” Let us know if there are any other driving questions you’d like answered!

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