Hard Shoulder


Driving, although for many it is something quite simple, the truth is that although it appears to be something simple it is something extremely dangerous, that is why there is a compendium of traffic elements which provide and maintain safety on the roads or highways. This is not only presented through the sets of laws and regulations of traffic of a nation but also by elements that are found on the roads such as signs, streetlights on the curbs and the shoulders of each side of the road.

What is a shoulder?

A hard shoulder is a safety element that is found within the roads to one side of it, this serves for drivers to park their vehicles when they have an emergency or problem, either in their vehicle or at the passenger level. This, although it is called a safety device , for which the term is automatically associated with a device, is something as simple as a strip painted on the floor in an intense color with respect to the color of the pavement such as white and yellow.

  • Definition of hard shoulder
  • Etymology
  • Synonyms
  • What is a hard shoulder for
  • Characteristics
  • Source
  • Story
  • Importance of the hard shoulder

Definition of hard shoulder

The hard shoulder is defined in the common dictionary as a longitudinal strip of about 25 centimeters wide which may as well not; be paved and is totally contiguous to the road . This can only be used in exceptional cases or emergencies and in turn together with the road make up an automotive platform.



The term shoulder has its origin in the word ” maple “, which comes from the original Latin ” arger ” which does not have an exact definition but can be translated as close or side.


The term shoulder in America is the least used because by the idiom more different names have been given to it, for example in Colombia and Venezuela it is called shoulder , in Mexico , Panama and the Caribbean Islands they call it shoulder or berm, while countries like Argentina, Chile and Uruguay are known as the shoulders of the road.

What is a hard shoulder for

The hard shoulder can be used for exceptional cases which could be:

  • When a driver is in any of the channels of the road and feels a fault in his vehicle, he can slowly enter the shoulder to verify what is happening. It should be noted that entering the canal must be done slowly so as not to cause accidents and if a road service such as an ambulance is required, it can be done from this canal.
  • You can enter the hard shoulder for some physiological need which cannot be suppressed or avoided, however, elements should be used in the same way to avoid polluting the environment such as an empty container or a bag in which to deposit the needs.
  • If the driver feels that he has a medical problem that makes it impossible for him to continue driving, he can enter the shoulder to call the emergency service. On the other hand, if the driver feels in danger, he can enter through this channel also only for a period of time to communicate with the police or security services .


Among the characteristics that make up a hard shoulder are:

  • They are highlighted on the ground by striking colors such as white and yellow in relation to the color of the asphalt which is black , in turn they are also usually painted in somewhat radiant colors such as green for easy viewing at night.
  • The use of the shoulder incorrectly is fined worldwide. Within the prohibitions of the hard shoulder are the limitation of the use of this channel to overtake vehicles, as well as to travel parallel to another, among many others.
  • The bodies of state as the emergency system with its ambulances, the fire with their trucks, and the police with all security vehicles has full disposal of this channel in emergency situations where they are needed.
  • In some countries, the traffic of bicycles is limited , allowing you only to travel through these channels in order to avoid accidents.


The origin of a service street dates back to English society a little before the industrial revolution, when the fleet had not yet fully developed. At the time there was already a large number of wagons so a small canal was needed where the firefighters’ wagons could move freely, so one was created which was in the middle of the road and if another wagon was passing through this was arrested and taken to jail for a couple of days.


After the industrial revolution and the expansion of the vehicle fleet, there had to be a channel for the remaining carts of people who could not afford a vehicle to travel.

This is why two channels are born on the sides of the tracks, one functioned so that vehicles and wagons were parked, while the other served the sole transit of wagons.

This system lasted a very short time due to its poor organization since traffic was congested due to the crossing between carts and vehicles.

Thanks to this situation, the transit of carriages is prohibited and one of the lanes is eliminated, in turn, the use of this channel that was on the side of the roads for any social purpose is prohibited and only the use of it is allowed. for emergencies or vehicle failures which was very common at the time.

Importance of the hard shoulder

These canals, which are found on the side of the roads, have been of great use to both civilians and government agencies.

While civilians use it in their various inconvenient situations, police officers use it to stop people without posing a risk to other drivers .

For their part, emergency services such as ambulances and fire trucks manage to reach their destinations in the shortest time of risk , whether they are fires or problems within society such as a person about to commit suicide , or in the case of patient ambulances in poor health condition 

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