Ask a trooper 2014

jon_y51o5q81Ask a Trooper, Extra Extra, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print Sauk Rapids - Rice, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Hwy. 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205 or follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

 

How long has there been a drunk driving law in Minnesota?

Q: How long has there been a drunk driving law in Minnesota?

A: The Minnesota Legislature criminalized DWI in 1911, making “driving while in an intoxicated manner” a misdemeanor. The laws and sanctions addressing DWI have certainly evolved in the past 103 years. The strengthened efforts are successfully working to get drunk drivers off the roads:

• Evidence of influence was set at .15 Blood Alcohol Concentration in 1917.

• The first civil sanctions for DWI (Implied Consent) began in 1961.

• A per se level of .10 BAC was attached to administrative license sanctions in 1971 (Minnesota was the first state to take such action).

• The concept of BAC changed to Alcohol Concentration (AC) in 1978.

• License plate impoundment began in 1988.

• Test refusal becomes a criminal offense in 1989.

• Child Endangerment enhancement and ‘Not a Drop’ law enacted in 1993.

• High AC (.20+) added as an enhancement in 1997.

• Felony level penalties established in 2001.

• Per se level lowered to .08 AC in 2004.

• Ignition Interlock added in 2010.

Minnesota’s enhanced DWI enforcement and education efforts are contributing to the reduction of alcohol-related deaths. Still, drunk driving remains a serious threat, with 279 drunk-driving-related traffic deaths in Minnesota since 2011 and 25,719 motorists arrested for DWI last year. One in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.

The legal limit for driving impaired in Minnesota is 0.08 — but motorists can be arrested for DWI at lower levels. The consequences for driving impaired will vary for each DWI offender. A typical penalty for a first-time offender is loss of license for a minimum of 30 days up to a year and possible jail time. DWI costs can be as high as $20,000 when factoring court costs, legal fees and increased insurance premiums.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Could an orange flashing light be used on a vehicle when stranded with flashers disabled?

Q: I was recently in a stalled vehicle in a dangerous location (where two roads divide) when the alternator went out on my truck so I did not have battery power for emergency flashers or signals. I saw at Fleet Farm they were selling an orange flashing light that magnetically fastens to a vehicle. On the package it suggests to check with local officials regarding color of this device. Could I use this orange flashing light on my truck in case I get in this type of situation again? It was scary because I didn’t have any way to signal my vehicle was stalled, and couldn’t even open the tailgate because I needed power to unlock it.

A: That sounds like quite the ordeal you were in and you are not alone. Often while on patrol, I’ve come across similar situations where a person was stranded and unable to use their vehicle’s hazard lights. This is what Minnesota State Statute 169.59 says about flashing warning lights.

“Any vehicle may be equipped with lamps which may be used for the purpose of warning the operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing, and when so equipped may display such warning in addition to any other warning signals required by this section… The lamps used to display such warnings to the front shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall display simultaneous flashing white or amber lights, or any shade of color between white and amber. The lamps used to display such warnings to the rear shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall show simultaneously flashing amber or red lights, or any shade of color between amber and red. Instead of a pair of lamps that flash simultaneously, either one or two strobe lights or rotating beacon lights with an amber or yellow lens may be used both to the front and rear of the vehicle. These warning lights shall be visible from a distance of not less than 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions at night.”

Based on the statute, the “orange flashing light” would be legal to use at the rear of the vehicle in your situation since it’s a shade of color between amber and red. I would encourage people to carry an extra set of “hazard” lights along with their roadside emergency kit. It’s always best to be prepared. If your vehicle quits running:

• Park your vehicle on the shoulder or as far from the main roadway as possible.

• Activate any hazard warning lights.

• If you have flares or reflectors, place them 100 to 500 feet behind your vehicle on the right edge of the main road.

• Stay with your vehicle, if possible. If you must leave your vehicle, do not walk on the area of the highway reserved for vehicle traffic. This is illegal and extremely dangerous.

• Call local authorities as quickly as possible and advise them of your location and situation.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Am I able to take my four-wheeler with a snow blade down the road to help a neighbor?

Q: I read your article about tractors going down the highway to move snow at a neighbor’s. This got me wondering if I’m able to take my four-wheeler with my snow blade down the road to help a neighbor or two?

A: First we need to know what kind of ATV you have:

Class 1 ATVs are motorized flotation-tired vehicles with at least three but no more than six low-pressure tires that have an engine displacement of less than 1,000 cubic centimeters and total dry weight of less than 1.000 pounds.

Class 2 ATVs are motorized flotation-tired vehicles with at least three, but no more than six, low-pressure tires that have an engine displacement of less than 1,000 cubic centimeters and total dry weight of 1,000 to 1,800 pounds.

Here’s what is allowed if the ATV is properly registered and doesn’t have restrictions related to agricultural zone, road type or other posted items. Public-use registration allows for operation of:

  • Class 1 ATVs in the ditch bottom; on the outer slope of roadside ditches along state and county roads; on the right side of township roads and city streets, if not prohibited by the road authority or other local laws.
  • Class 2 ATVs on the shoulder or extreme right side of county roads and on the right side of township roads and city streets, if not prohibited by the road authority or other local laws. Class 2 ATVs may not be operated in the ditch unless part of a designated Class 2 trail.

Class 1 and 2 ATVs are not allowed on state highways. The only exception is for crossing those public roads. When making a direct crossing of a street or road:

  • come to a complete stop and look both ways.
  • yield to all traffic.
  • cross the road at a 90-degree angle.
  • cross a divided road only at an intersection.

A valid driver’s license is required to operate anywhere it is legal on road rights-of-way including ditches, inside and outside slopes, and crossing roads. The only exception would be on portions of a designated trail for that vehicle-type that specifically includes a road right-of-way.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Are out-of-country licensed drivers allowed to drive in the United States?

Q: We have three employees visiting from Nepal for three months who all have their motorcycle licenses (issued from Nepal). Are they legally allowed to drive motorcycles here in the United States with those licenses?  What would allow them legally to drive motorcycles or mopeds here?

A: Yes, they would be allowed to drive. A non-resident who is at least 15 years of age and has in immediate possession a valid driver’s license from their home state or country may operate a motor vehicle in this state. Remember Minnesota traffic laws apply to any driver, regardless of their residency.

For more information on traffic laws and safety information: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/Documents/Minnesota_Drivers_Manual.pdf

https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/forms-documents/Documents/MotorcycleManual.pdf

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Are tractors to remove snow allowed to be driven on highways?

Q: I’m getting ready for the winter and preparing to move snow. I would like to know if I’m able to drive my tractor on the highway so I can help my neighbors move snow.

A: Yes as long as the tractor has the proper lighting and reflectors. Here is what Minnesota State Statute 169.55 says about “Implements of Husbandry Lights.”

At the times when lighted lamps on vehicles are required:

• every self-propelled implement of husbandry must be equipped with at least one lamp displaying a white light to the front, and at least one lamp displaying a red light to the rear;

• every self-propelled implement of husbandry must also display two red reflectors visible to the rear;

• every combination of a self-propelled and towed implement of husbandry must be equipped with at least one lamp mounted to indicate as nearly as practicable the extreme left projection of the combination and displaying a white or amber light to the front and a red or amber light to the rear of the self-propelled implement of husbandry; and

• the last unit of every combination of implements of husbandry must display two red reflectors visible to the rear.

• The reflectors must be of the type approved for use upon commercial vehicles. The reflectors must be mounted as close as practical to the extreme edges of the implement of husbandry. The reflectors must be reflex reflectors that are visible at night from all distances within 600 feet to 100 feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps.

• Implement of husbandry; hazard warning lights. No person may operate a self-propelled implement of husbandry manufactured after Jan. 1, 1970, on a highway unless the implement of husbandry displays vehicular hazard- warning lights visible to the front and rear in normal sunlight.

• Also, at a speed of 30 mph or less, you must display a triangular slow-moving vehicle emblem.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Can I tow a non-running vehicle that is not licensed and not insured?

Q: If I rent a properly licensed and lighted tow dolly from a rental company, can I tow a non-running vehicle that is not licensed (no current plates) and not insured? Do I need tail lights in addition to the dolly lights?

A: First I will explain what a tow dolly is for those who may not know. A tow dolly is little more than two wheels, an axle and a tow-hitch, used to tow a front-wheel drive suspension vehicle behind a recreational vehicle or other larger vehicle. It’s generally designed to tow a vehicle with the front wheels on the tow dolly. To answer your question, I would say you can do this as long as you’re meeting the following criteria:

  • The vehicle you are using to tow the dolly is properly registered, insured and legal to tow the non-running vehicle (hitch, weight ratings and more).
  • The dolly is properly registered and has the required dolly lights and reflectors.
  • If the non-running vehicle sticks out beyond the dolly, it must be equipped with at least two tail lamps on the rear. The lamps must be on the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practical.

You may want to talk with your auto insurance agent about insuring the non-running vehicle. Even though the towing vehicle has insurance coverage, it might not apply if something happened to the non-running vehicle.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Is it ‘legal’ to leave your dog in a car with the heat on and car running but locked?

Q: Thank you for your informative columns in various Minnesota newspapers. I have clipped many of them out to prove to my younger, know-it-all brother, that he is wrong! Here is a question I’ve not seen raised. Is it “legal” to leave your dog in a car with the heat on and car running but locked? We occasionally will do this while grabbing a quick bite to eat or running a fast errand.

A: You are correct, this is a question I’ve not been asked in my articles. Minnesota State Statute  346.57 says, “A person may not leave a dog or a cat unattended in a standing or parked motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety. A peace officer, as defined in section 626.84, a humane agent, a dog warden, or a volunteer or professional member of a fire or rescue department of a political subdivision may use reasonable force to enter a motor vehicle and remove a dog or cat which has been left in the vehicle in violation of subdivision 1. A person removing a dog or a cat under this subdivision shall use reasonable means to contact the owner of the dog or cat to arrange for its return home. If the person is unable to contact the owner, the person may take the dog or cat to an animal shelter.”

This is a good question as it could be a bit of a gray area with the situation you describe. The law addresses the issue of the unattended pet in a “standing or parked motor vehicle” but also states “a manner that endangers the dog’s or cat’s health or safety.”  You mention the dog is left in the running car with the heat on and doors locked.  I see a few issues:

• How do we know the heat is working?

• Where is owner of the vehicle and when are they coming back?

• What if the vehicle’s engine quits running, or runs out of fuel?

I would advise any pet owner to err on the side of caution and always look out for your pet’s well-being and safety.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

What does the reduce speed sign that says ‘when children are present’ mean?

Q: What does the reduce speed sign that says “when children are present” mean? When children are present where? In school, outside the school, outside the fence?

A: According to Minnesota State Statute 169.14 (5a): “Such school speed limits shall be in effect when children are present, going to or leaving school during opening or closing hours or during school recess periods.”

My understanding is the law refers to when children are “outside” the school. This includes when buses are present and when kids are in crosswalks, on sidewalks and out in the schoolyard. Even if there is a fence, it’s not going to stop a vehicle that is speeding and out of control and runs off the highway or street. This is why it’s so important to slow down through school zones and pay extra attention for bicyclists and pedestrians.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Is there an age requirement for a driver of a farm tractor?

Q: Is there an age requirement for a driver of a farm tractor? Do they need to be age 15 and have a farm permit? It’s the busy fall harvest season and a person sees lots of farm implements on the roadways. Yesterday, we were on a county road and came up behind a tractor. This was not a small tractor I would say it would be a mid-size tractor now days. As we approached I said to my husband that is a very short driver ahead of us. As we got closer we could tell it was a very young driver he could not have been older than 10 or 11 years old. He was not going slow either. I will say he did keep checking his mirrors and looking behind him for approaching vehicles. We were both concerned about such a young driver with no adult driving such a unit and going at a fairly high rate of speed. It was tempting to follow the tractor to the farm site and ask to speak with the parents about safety, however that could have led to an unpleasant conversation and could have created another story. Thanks for the articles, keep up the good work and be safe.

A:  There is no age requirement for driving a farm tractor. There also are no state vehicle driver’s license requirements for operating tractors and other farm implements in Minnesota. However according to the University of Minnesota Extension Service, kids under 16 working off of their parents’ farm must be certified to operate farm equipment on the highway or in the field. Also, remember even though it may be legal to allow your 7-year-old to drive a tractor, allowing this activity puts the child (and other drivers on public roadways) in great danger.

Does this indicate a child or even a person with a revoked/suspended/cancelled driver’s license can drive a farm tractor for fun or as a means of personal transportation? Most certainly not. It’s for temporary trips needed for agricultural activity or business.

As for your choice not to follow the tractor to the farm site and having a conversation, I believe that was a wise decision. If you see something you believe is unsafe or illegal, it’s generally best to be a good witness, obtain accurate information and report it to the local authorities.

For more information, please go to the University of Minnesota Extension Service with information from the National Ag Safety Database, including training. http://nasdonline.org/document/1507/d001300/minnesota-regulations-for-hiring-farm-workers-under-the.html.

During 2011-13, 392 traffic crashes took place on Minnesota roads involving at least one farm vehicle, resulting in 14 fatalities and 210 injuries. Of the 14 fatalities, nine were farm vehicle riders; of the 210 injuries, 54 were farm vehicle riders. The biggest factors contributing to farm equipment/vehicle crashes are inattention, speeding and unsafe passing. When approaching farm equipment, motorists should always slow down and use extreme caution.

 

What is the rule for cyclists when not ‘tripping’ a signal light?

Q: What is the rule for drivers of motorcycles for making left or right turns at intersections? Sometimes they are not heavy enough to trip the signal lights. Someone told me they could make a left or right turn at a red light if it’s safe to do so, after the signal light has cycled once. Please advise, thanks!

A: Minnesota law addresses when motorcycles, bicycles and mopeds are not detected by control systems at traffic lights, and a signal change does not occur. The law gives motorcyclists, bicyclists and moped riders the option to proceed through the intersection after a reasonable amount of time, and provides an affirmative legal defense to this action. These five conditions must be met to proceed:

• The motorcycle, bicycle or moped has been brought to a complete stop.

• The traffic-control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time.

• The traffic-control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the motorcycle, bicycle or moped.

• No vehicle or person is approaching on the roadway to be crossed or entered, or

• Approaching vehicles or persons are so far away they do not constitute an immediate hazard.

The affirmative defense applies only to an alleged violation for entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light. It does not provide a defense to any other civil or criminal action.

Preliminary numbers show a drop in motorcycle crash fatalities this year in Minnesota – a 29 percent decrease as of the end of September. Motorcyclists – keep the positive trend going and stay alive with safe riding strategies as the season comes to a close, including:

• Assume you’re invisible to drivers

• Use both brakes

• Don’t give up control by “laying it down”

 

Is it required to display a license plate? Why do we need two anyway?

Q: My front license plate fell off recently. Am I required to display one? Can I display it up in the front windshield? Why do we need two license plates anyway?

A: This is what Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.79 says about license plates:

“No person shall operate, drive or park a motor vehicle on any highway unless the vehicle is registered in accordance with the laws of this state and has the number plates or permit confirming that valid registration or operating authority has been obtained…”

There are some vehicles that are allowed to display only one license plate: motorcycles; a dealer’s vehicle or vehicle in-transit; a collector’s vehicle with a pioneer, classic car, collector or street rod license; a vehicle that is of model year 1972 or earlier (not registered as a collector vehicle), and is used for general transportation purposes.

License plates cannot not be displayed in the front windshield or the rear window, they must be displayed on the front and rear of the vehicle. plates must be securely fastened so as to prevent them from swinging, displayed horizontally with the identifying numbers and letters facing outward from the vehicle, and mounted in the upright position. The person driving the motor vehicle shall keep the plate legible and unobstructed and free from grease, dust or other blurring material (dirt, mud, snow or other) so the lettering is plainly visible at times. It’s unlawful to cover any assigned letters and numbers or the name of the state of origin of a license plate with any material whatsoever, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate’s visibility or reflectivity. This also includes obstructing license plate brackets that block the state of issuance, and tabs.

License plates issued to vehicles must display the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner of each plate.

Why do we have two license plates? First and foremost, it’s the law in Minnesota M.S.S. 169.79. From a law enforcement perspective it’s safer to have two plates. For instance…

• If an officer needs to run vehicle information they can get the plate information from the front or rear of the vehicle.

• It makes a suspect vehicle easier to identify if it’s encountered from the front or the rear.

• If a suspect vehicle is backed into a parking spot it’s more easily identified.

• Identifying a suspect in a crime (from surveillance images) in a robbery, kidnapping, homicide or gas drive-off is easier with front and back plates.

 

How long does a person have to change their driver’s license address?

Q: How long does a person have to change their driver’s license address?

A: It depends on the circumstance. I will name off some situations.

• If you’re already living in Minnesota and move to a new address in the state, the law requires you apply for a new driver’s license within 30 days of changing your address.

• If you have a valid driver’s license or instruction permit from another state, you have 60 days after becoming a Minnesota resident to obtain your Minnesota license or permit.

• If you have a valid “commercial driver’s license” (CDL) from another state, you have 30 days to obtain your Minnesota license after moving here.

• You do not need a Minnesota license if you work for the U.S. Armed Forces or are a family member of someone in the Armed Forces stationed in Minnesota, and hold a valid out-of-state driver’s license.

• If you are on active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces and have a valid Minnesota driver’s license, you are not required to renew your license until you are discharged, regardless of your length of service. This law also applies to the spouses of those on active duty, if the spouse does not reside in Minnesota during the active-duty period.

 

What’s the grace period for purchasing license tabs?

Q: My registration tabs for my license plates are due. Is there some leeway when I have to purchase them?

A: This is a good question and I have learned something myself along the way. Minnesota State Statute 168.09 says: “A vehicle registered under the monthly series system of registration shall display the plates and insignia issued within 10 days of the first day of the month which commences the registration period.”

Let me clarify: The registration tabs must be purchased before the end of the month, but you have 10 days to display them. For example, if the registration tabs are October 2014, the tabs must be purchased by Oct. 31, 2014. You then have 10 days (Nov. 10, 2014) to get them on the license plates.

I would also like to add vehicles must display the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each license plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner of each license plate.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

What are the rules about registering a car in the process of being restored?

I am restoring a vintage 1970s model car that has the original Minnesota license plate from the year the car was made but I still have other questions in regards to the plates:

Q1. Does the original license plate have to be one that was issued to that vehicle or can it be another prior-=issued plate which is in good legible condition and no longer showing to be in use?

A1. The original plate must be in good condition and cannot be repainted or restored. It can be another plate, as long as the plate is the same year as the vehicle you are registering.

Q2.  Does the original license plate have to be one indicated for personal registration or can the original year plate be a Dealer or a New Vehicle In-transit original plate showing the year of vehicle manufacture?

A2. The original plate has to be of a type originally issued to the type of vehicle (e.g. passenger plate).  No Dealer plates or In-transit plates.

Q3. What determines if an original license plate conflicts with a license plate series currently in use or reserved for use by the Department of Public Safety?

A3. Plates that are numbers are reserved for collector and tax-exempt categories. You may contact DVS with the plate number to see if it would conflict with a series that is in use or reserved for future use.

Q4. Do I have to display the original license plate on both the front and rear of the vehicle?

A4. If the vehicle is 1972 or older or registered in the collector class, the owner has the option of just displaying one plate on the rear of the vehicle.

 

What is the law regarding water shooting from an irrigator across a public road?

Q: I have wanted to ask this question for some time now, and after talking to others about it, it’s time to ask. While driving through the country side, on more than one occasion, I’ve been blasted with water coming from the water cannon on the end of field irrigators. I ride a motorcycle and can’t imagine what would happen if I got hit with one of those water cannons while on my bike. What is the law regarding shooting the water from an irrigator onto or across a public road, and what can we as drivers do about it? This could be a very dangerous situation if the right circumstances existed. I hope you publish the answer as there are many looking for the answer.

A: Good question as it’s been a year since I received any inquires on this subject and here we are in a dry part of the season again.

I am unable to locate any law or statute that specifically states it’s illegal for an irrigation system to spray water on a highway; however, I did find this in Minnesota State Statute 160.2715 on what’s considered a violation:

(1) obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice thereon;

(2) plow or perform any other detrimental operation within the road right-of-way

Violation of this statute is a misdemeanor. It is my opinion if enough water was deposited onto the highway, this statute may apply. “Obstruct any highway” does not only mean “to block” but “to hinder from passage” and “impede.” As for “detrimental” meaning “obviously harmful,” if there’s enough standing water on a roadway for a vehicle to hydroplane and cause a crash – this too could be an issue.

I’ve grown up and lived my entire life in rural Minnesota. I’ve traveled hundreds of thousands of miles and been dowsed several times by the overspray of an irrigator and never felt it was an issue since it’s always been a light mist. But for some reason, if a person did, I would encourage them to report this roadway safety issue as quickly as possible so the proper road authority can address it in a timely manner.

In the meantime, use some common sense. Scan the road and obey the speed limit. Search aggressively ahead, to the sides and behind you to help avoid potential hazards even before they arise. How assertively you search, and how much time and space you create, can eliminate or reduce some of the potential issues. Focus on finding potential escape routes, and be prepared to slow down or stop, depending on the circumstance.

 

What are the laws about turning left on a green light?

Q: When you’re at a green light (without a green arrow) and you’re making a left turn, what are the laws about creeping out into the intersection?

A: You can go out into the intersection on a green light to make a left turn, even if you have to wait for the oncoming traffic, because left turns are exempt from the intersection gridlock law.

The intersection gridlock law applies specifically to entering an intersection (at a traffic control light) that you can’t cross because traffic is backed up through the intersection due to another red light, train or other reason. Entering the intersection in this case is against the law. It happens in many cities and creates a lot of problems with the flow of traffic when one direction of traffic cannot continue on a green light because vehicles on the cross road are stopped and blocking the other lanes of traffic.

 

Are tractor trailer extensions allowed if the overall length of the rig exceeds the state maximum length?

Q: I have been seeing many tractor trailer rigs where, under the trailer, there is a skirt that I’m assuming is for less drag.  I have also seen maybe a half a dozen trailers that have an extension off the back of the trailer I believe is also for increased aerodynamics. Are these extensions allowed even if they cause the overall length of the tractor trailer rig to exceed the state maximum length?

A: Very good question. I checked with the Minnesota State Patrol Commercial Vehicle Section and here is what I learned.

The air deflectors under the trailers are allowed; however, Minnesota State Statute 169.81 addresses length of trailers and specifically references non-cargo carrying equipment adjacent to the truck tractor used for safe and efficient operation as being allowed.

In other words, refrigeration units and air deflectors mounted on the front of semi-trailers is allowed without regard to maximum trailer length. Technically, by State Statute, a 53-foot trailer would not be a legal trailer in Minnesota with these rear deflectors mounted. Possibly, a 48-foot trailer could have them installed, as long as it was at or under the 53-foot maximum semi-trailer length law.

 

Which speed limit should drivers heed when in construction zones?

Q: With the new law of $300 fines in construction zones I have a question. I know the white speed limit sign is the legal speed limit. Are orange signs supposed to be advisory or warning signs? Can you get a ticket for going the speed of the white sign when there is also some orange signs posted? I’ve seen some construction zones with white signs posted 55 mph and then some orange signs with 35-mph speed signs. What is the legal speed limit?

A: You are correct; motorists who speed through a work zone will be fined $300 (effective Aug. 1, 2014) thanks to a new law passed during the 2014 state legislative session.

The white speed-limit signs are the official regulatory sign. The orange signs serve as a warning; even though they are not regulatory they are intended to provide clear instructions to help you drive safely. So if the posted speed limit is 55 mph, and you see an orange sign indicating 35 mph, I would recommend slowing to the indicated speed. Minnesota signs, signals and pavement markings conform to the national standards.

Sign Color Meanings:

Regulatory –Red prohibits and commands; White regulates

Warning – Yellow warns; Yellow-green warns and controls pedestrian and bicycle crossings and school areas; Orange warns and controls in construction zones

Informational – Green guides and informs; Blue describes services for motorists; Brown indicates historic, cultural or recreational sites

 

What are the rules about political signage along highways?

Q: I’m starting to see political signs pop up all over along the highways. What are the rules with these? Thanks!

A: Placement of campaign signs in state highway rights-of-way is prohibited under Minnesota State Statute 160.27. In addition, campaign signs may not be placed on private property outside of the right-of-way limits without landowner consent.

Highway rights-of-way include the driving lanes, inside and outside shoulders, ditches and sight corners at intersections. Signs in violation will be removed and impounded at one of the local Minnesota Department of Transportation maintenance truck stations.

Violation of the law is a misdemeanor. Civil penalties also may apply if the placement of a sign contributes to a motor-vehicle crash and injures a person, or damages a motor vehicle that runs off the road. In addition, the Minnesota Outdoor Advertising Control Act (Minnesota State Statute 173.15) prohibits erecting advertising on public utility poles, trees and shrubs, and painting or drawing on rocks or natural features.

These laws are administered in a fair and impartial manner. Political campaign signs are treated in the same way as any other signs wrongly placed on state highway property by businesses, churches, private citizens or charitable groups. For information regarding the proper placement of campaign signs or where to find signs that have been removed, contact your local MnDOT office.  See also www.dot.state.mn.us/govrel/rw_signs.html.

 

Recently I received my renewed Class D driver’s license and have questions on the restrictions

Q 1: Daylight Driving: What are the hours for daylight driving? Sunrise to sunset or half-hour before sunrise and half-hour after sunset?

A 1: According to Minnesota State Statute, “daytime” is from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.

Q 2: 50-mph maximum: Isn’t driving 50 mph on the highway hazardous? What can I do to make it safer? Use flashers? Signal and pull off the road (onto the shoulder) and stop to allow vehicles backed up behind me to pass? Pump my brake when I see another vehicle coming up fast behind me?

A 2: I believe 50 mph can be a reasonable and safe speed for the motoring public overall. But with the speed limit increasing from 55 mph to 60 mph on some roads and other highways already at 65 mph and 70 mph, we need to realize how fast we can come upon someone traveling slower. This is another reason why driver attention is so important. All you can do is drive your own vehicle and concentrate on what you can do.

Flashers: I would say at 50 mph, probably not. The purpose of flashers is to warn other drivers of a vehicular traffic hazard and to exercise care in approaching, overtaking or passing.

Signaling and pulling over: I would recommend doing that If you notice you are starting to impede traffic and can find a legal and safe place to pull over.

Pumping brakes: By lightly tapping the brake and without slowing down may be an option to help get the attention of a vehicle approaching at a faster speed from behind. Unnecessary applying of the brakes and slowing down too quickly could cause a crash and you could be held responsible.

The most dangerous thing we do every day is get in our cars and drive. Roadway crashes are the single largest cause of injury and death in Minnesota and of work-related deaths. Reduce your risk through driver training and community traffic safety programs and resources. Always use some good common sense; pay attention and buckle up!

 

Is there a height requirement to drive a vehicle safely?

Q: Decades ago, when I got my driver’s license, it seems there had been a height requirement in order to drive a vehicle safely. If the driver’s height was too short, then a booster was required to get the driver at a proper driving height for visibility. Today, on the roads and highways, I see many drivers who are positioned to look through the steering wheel to drive. Isn’t this a violation, sighting improper visibility for safety on the road?

A: According to Driver and Vehicle Services, there is no specific height that requires an elevated-seat restriction. If a driver can see well enough to safely maneuver the vehicle for the road test, they are fine. If they use any cushion, booster seat or other device that elevates their driving position, then they get the restriction.

If law enforcement observes an issue on the highway, whether it’s a traffic contact or crash, they can submit a “request for examination of driver” to the DVS-Driver Evaluation Unit. If there was an issue of the driver being able to see out of the vehicle, the officer would describe in detail the actions or conditions that brought this driver and issue to their attention and explain why they need to be re-examined.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

May a city purchase/display digital signs to show vehicle speed?

Q: I was at a city council meeting and a discussion was held regarding the digital speed signs that appear in some communities. They don’t mean the portable signs that are placed on highways at various points by the state – but the digital signs that appear on poles and elsewhere in communities showing the speed at which vehicles are traveling as they pass by. They wondered if a city could purchase these signs and install them on highways going through their communities. They feel drivers do pay attention to these signs.

A: According to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.06 Sub.3, “Local authorities in their respective jurisdictions shall place and maintain such traffic-control devices upon highways under their jurisdiction as they may deem necessary to indicate and to carry out the provisions of this chapter or local traffic ordinances, or to regulate, warn or guide traffic. All such traffic-control devices hereafter erected shall conform to the state manual and specifications.”

If this is within a right of way of a State or U.S. Trunk Highway, you will need to contact the Minnesota Department of Transportation. There will most likely be a permit process you will need to go through. MnDOT would be better able to explain, but I believe some things taken into consideration would be the traffic and other functional areas if a device may be installed and what possible restrictions would apply. Other issues would be acceptable locations, does the device meet safety requirements (crash tested, brightness and more) and who will maintain the device, just to name a few.

 

Can I get a ticket pulling my camper with a pickup that displays farm plates?

Q: I have a one-ton pickup that I use on my farm. I was thinking of hooking up my fifth-wheel camper and heading out to Arizona but a friend told me I would get a ticket for pulling my camper with a pickup that had farm plates on it. Is that correct?

A:  Yes, that is correct. That would be a violation and you would receive a ticket for that. Being it’s an illegal use of farm plates/registration, you could also be subject to having the vehicle towed and put in impound until you put the proper registration on it.

Q: Winter is over (thankfully), but can a person have an open bottle of alcohol in a vehicle on a frozen lake or river?

A:  According to Minnesota State Statute 169A.35 Subdivision. 2. Drinking and consumption; crime described. “It is a crime for a person to drink or consume an alcoholic beverage, distilled spirit, or 3.2 percent malt liquor in a motor vehicle when the vehicle is upon a street or highway.” So as I read it, yes you can. As we always say, if you plan on drinking, be responsible – plan ahead for a sober ride.

 

Is moving over for pedestrians walking on the shoulder a law or courtesy?

Q: What is the law regarding motorists moving over when meeting a person walking on the roadway? I often walk my dog on the side of the road (but not in the gravel shoulder or grass.) I walk against traffic so the vehicle I’m meeting is very close to me and rarely moves over when the other lane is open and rarely slows down, even to the point of spitting rocks at us. Am I right, are motorists legally supposed to move over if they can do so safely and slow down? Or am I supposed to quickly get on the shoulder out of fear they could hit us? Or is it not the law in Minnesota and just myself and some others do it for walkers and bike riders as a courtesy?

A: Pedestrian safety is a two-way street. As a reminder, pedestrian traffic walks facing the direction of oncoming traffic, while bicycles must ride in the same direction as traffic. Here is what Minnesota law says about pedestrian traffic. “Pedestrians when walking or moving in a wheelchair along a roadway shall, when practicable, walk or move on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder giving way to oncoming traffic. Where sidewalks are provided and are accessible and usable it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk or move in a wheelchair along and upon an adjacent roadway.”

While out walking, get off onto the shoulder and move out of the way as far as possible of oncoming traffic. With that said, I would encourage other motorists to extend some courtesy to pedestrians and give them some room and slow down, when possible. “Sharing the road” is covered quite extensively in the Minnesota driver’s manual but, more importantly, I believe it’s good common sense.

Each year in Minnesota, approximately 40 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists are killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles. Fifteen percent of those pedestrians killed were not using or crossing the highway properly. Everyone needs to pay attention and do the safe and smart thing.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

What is the law with small farm trailers being exempt from registration?

Q: What is the law with small farm trailers being exempt from registration? I heard something about a 10,000-pound limit when being pulled by a regular motor vehicle (not a farm tractor), but I want to know the facts. A neighbor-friend of mine got ticketed for no Minnesota registration for hauling a lot less weight than that on his farm trailer being pulled with a pickup truck, but he thought he was exempt. He was helping me haul some large, old household items to the dump with it, so I kind of feel partially responsible. Thanks for whatever information you can provide.

A: Many types of trailers are exempt from registration, but I am sure what you are referring to is found in M.S.S. 168.012, Subdivision 2a: “Farm trailers with a gross weight of less than 10,000 pounds, drawn by a passenger automobile or farm truck and used exclusively for transporting agricultural products from farm to farm and to and from the usual marketplace of the owner, shall not be taxed as motor vehicles using the public streets and highways and shall be exempt from the provisions of this chapter.”

The reason your neighbor was cited for not having registration is because of the part of the law that says: “…and used exclusively for transporting agricultural products from farm to farm and to and from the usual marketplace of the owner….”  Because he was hauling something other than that, he was no longer exempt and had to comply with normal trailer requirements, including registration. The officer probably mentioned this to your friend, who also could have possibly received other violation charges related to the trailer as well.

I hope this information clears it up for you. If anyone is getting cited by an officer for something and you don’t understand something about the violation, just ask the officer to clarify the situation for you. A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Are vehicles displaying collector plates restricted to parades/holidays only?

Q: I have heard rumors, urban legend and even from the people at the county license center that vehicles with collector plates can only be driven on holidays and/or in parades. I’ve looked at the Minnesota state statutes online several times and I cannot find any restrictions on the use of vehicles with collector plates. I just recently got a 40-year-old Rolls Royce up and running (with collector plates). It’s fun to drive around but I don’t want to be breaking any laws. I do have two other vehicles that require yearly tabs in the state of Minnesota. Any light you can shed on this subject will be greatly appreciated.

A: Good question because, as I write this, I’m overlooking the highway and seeing several cars I believe to be heading to “Back to the 50s” at the Minnesota State Fair Grounds. Here is what some of Minnesota State Statute 168.10 says;

(1)   at least 20 model years old

(2)   The vehicle is owned and operated solely as a collector’s item and not for general transportation purposes.

(3)   The owner shall also prove the owner also has one or more vehicles with regular license plates.

I’ve been in law enforcement for 17 years now (16 of them with the State Patrol) and I recall early in my career something about limited miles, parades, car shows only and more. But I believe the statute was changed many years ago to what is currently listed. The statute is vague with regard to the use of vehicles bearing any of these classifications of plates, merely stating the vehicle for which the plates are issued must be operated solely as a collector vehicle and not for general transportation purposes. Nothing defines how a collector vehicle must be operated. The occasional use of such a vehicle for personal errands or other “could” be acceptable within the scope of the statute. However, commuting to and from work, daily trips to the grocery store and more would be in violation.

If you were in violation of one of those requirements listed above, you could be charged with “improper use of registration” – misdemeanor (90 days and/or $1,000 fine) or “intent to escape tax” – a gross misdemeanor (up to one year and/or $3,000 fine) depending on the situation. The license plates would also be subject to impoundment. So, if you are going to use it for other purposes, have regular plates on it.

A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

Is it legal to ‘sandwich’ a child between two motorcycle riders?

Q: My wife and I have a larger motorcycle and love to ride. We have a 6-year-old grandchild who wants to go along. The state motorcycle guide says you should not have a child ride in front of you, but behind you instead. It doesn’t say you can’t, it says you shouldn’t. It also says the passenger must be able to reach the foot pedals. My question is, can our grandchild ride (sandwiched) between us? I feel this would be safe, but is it legal?

A: The motorcycle guide is not the law, it is a summary, and your interpretation of what it says may be incorrect. It would not be legal and would not be safe. Motorcycles are not designed for three people (unless there is a sidecar or similar). Here is part of the motorcycle law concerning passengers:

M.S.S. 169.974 Subdivision 5 (a) An operator of a motorcycle shall ride only upon a permanent and regular seat which is attached to the vehicle for that purpose. No other person shall ride on a motorcycle; except passengers may ride upon a permanent and regular operator’s seat if designed for two persons, or upon additional seats attached to the vehicle to the rear of the operator’s seat, or in a sidecar attached to the vehicle; provided, however, the operator of a motorcycle shall not carry passengers in a number in excess of the designed capacity of the motorcycle or sidecar attached to it. No passenger shall be carried in a position that will interfere with the safe operation of the motorcycle or the view of the operator.

(b) No person shall ride upon a motorcycle as a passenger unless, when sitting astride the seat, the person can reach the footrests with both feet.

(c) No person, except passengers of sidecars or drivers and passengers of three-wheeled motorcycles, shall operate or ride upon a motorcycle except while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on either side of the motorcycle.

Parts of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Thanks for asking, I hope this clears it up for you.

What are the installation requirements for billboard lighting because some blinds drivers?

Q: I would like to know if there are installation requirements for billboard lighting. The new billboard lights are blinding drivers. Sometimes you cannot see oncoming traffic, pedestrians or animals. There are sign companies that do this without this problem. How would you contact the people who install them to let them know this problem exists?

A: I am not personally aware of all of the specific installation requirements for billboard lighting, but I do know they can’t be a traffic hazard at any rate. Generally, the Minnesota Department of Transportation handles those situations. Any time there is a situation like that, it would be a good idea to notify them. They will check it out and take the appropriate action.

There have been times I personally spoke with the ones’ who put up lights that were blinding to traffic, and they voluntarily took them down; however, I still recommend contacting the nearest MnDOT office and let them know about the specific locations you are referring to. I suppose you also could let the sign company know it’s creating a traffic hazard and see what they will do. Sometimes the contact information is part of the billboard.

If you are driving and you observe a lighting hazard of any kind, slow down immediately, because it is a hazard. Don’t look directly at the light. We can’t control the hazards, but we can control how we react to them.

 

Does a speeding ticket of less than 10 mph over the 65/55 limit go on my CDL record?

Q:  I was stopped for speeding and ticketed by an officer who told me the violation would not go on my record because it’s not over 10 mph over the limit and it was in a 55-mph speed zone. I found out later it did in fact go on my record. I have a commercial vehicle driver’s license, but I was in my car at the time of the stop. What’s the deal? Thanks for your time.

A: The law exempting 65/55 speeding convictions from driving records doesn’t apply to Commercial Motor Vehicles (CMVs) or Commercial Driver License (CDL) holders, even if the CDL holder is driving a passenger car at the time of the 65/55 speeding violation.

171.12 Subdivision. 6 talks about certain convictions not recorded:

“(a) Except as provided in paragraph (c), the department shall not keep on the record of a driver any conviction for a violation of a speed limit of 55 mph unless the violation consisted of a speed greater than 10 miles per hour in excess of the speed limit.

(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c), the department shall not keep on the record of a driver any conviction for a violation of a speed limit of 60 mph unless the violation consisted of a speed greater than:

(1) 10 mph in excess of the speed limit, for any violation occurring on or after Aug. 1, 2012, and before Aug. 1, 2014; or

(2) five mph in excess of the speed limit for any violation occurring on or after Aug. 1, 2014.

(c) This subdivision does not apply to (1) a violation that occurs in a commercial motor vehicle, or (2) a violation committed by a holder of a class A, B, or C commercial driver’s license, without regard to whether the violation was committed in a commercial motor vehicle or another vehicle.”

So, officers should make sure they do not inform violators driving a CMV or issued a CDL, who they are citing for 65/55, that the 65/55 speed citation won’t go on their driving record, because it does. Remember, extra speed patrols are on the roads this summer. Drive at safe speeds! Minnesota state statutes are copyrighted, and a portion of the statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes.

 

What is the protocol for using middle turn lanes in both directions?

Q: Within the past few years or so, we had a four-lane with bike lanes and a middle turn lane through town. Many people are using that middle turn lane to pull out into and then merge into the traffic on left-hand turns – it’s really very dangerous. I really wish this would be covered for a period of time by law enforcement issuing warnings or even citations so people become educated. I think we need information sent out about the protocol for using the middle turn lane that both directions are to use and who has the right of way concerning the bicycle lane. Thank you.

A: We still see some issues with drivers in cities where those types of road designs have been around for a long time. It’s a good road design and drivers using it do have to understand some things, for sure. The center lane is a turn lane only, not a driving or acceleration lane – it cannot be used to drive out into from a side road, street or driveway to merge or fit into the traffic flow. Again, it can only be used as a turn lane.

If your center lane is also a bicycle lane, then bicycles would have the right of way, in most cases. I haven’t seen where they are used as both, but perhaps the one you are talking about is. For other bicycle lanes, bicyclists typically have the right of way. There may be some exceptions, but the bottom line is: always physically turn your head and look before turning or changing lanes, or turning so you can watch out for bicycles, motorcycles or even pedestrians.

On a related note, don’t get into that center turn lane too soon, as you might meet other vehicles head on who are trying to turn into a place closer than your turn off. Don’t forget to signal all your turns in advance.

 

What are the youth laws when operating ATVs?

Q: What are the youth laws when operating ATVs? I’ve observed youth riding excessively on residential roads quite fast, unsupervised and often without helmets. It’s not only unsafe for them, but it is unsafe for the people who live in these residential areas, and it’s noisy and annoying to have these ATVs driving up and down the road at all hours of the day. How are these laws being reinforced? A reminder to youth and parents would be great!

A: I have answered this before, but it’s been awhile. Anyone can get a regulations booklet from just about any ATV dealer, local DNR office, DMV office, on the Internet at www.mndnr.gov/ohv or at just about any police department or sheriff’s office. However, let me just say there are numerous regulations, but here are some of them that might answer part of your question.

Anyone under age 16 now has to have a parent or guardian’s permission to ride an ATV. All ATV operators and passengers under age 18 have to wear a helmet. Road authorities have the right to restrict operation of ATVs on roads under their jurisdiction, so people need to check every municipality/township before riding. Under 10 years of age, operators can only ride on private property (with permission of land owner). Under age 12, operators may only ride an ATV up to 90 cc on public lands and frozen waters if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and may operate only on private property with permission of the owner (and must wear a helmet, and have parent’s permission).

There are specific laws for operators ages 12-15, 15 and older, and ages 16 and 17. Unfortunately, there are too many laws to print here. All adults should take the responsibility for their youthful operators to ensure they are safe and obeying the laws. This should serve as a warning that these laws are being enforced statewide by all law enforcement, as many deaths and serious injuries are being reported every year.

 

Is there a law requiring secure enclosure of farm animals?

Q: My neighbor has cattle and horses, and it seems like they are always getting out of their fences and many times out onto the road. In fact, a couple times, he has had them hit by cars. Isn’t there some kind of law requiring animals to be kept a little more secure than that? Can he get into trouble with the law or get sued?

A: Yes, there are laws, and yes, a person could get into trouble.  I am sure a person also could get sued civilly by someone who was injured or sustained loss because of an incident like this.  M.S.S. 346.16 says that: “It shall be unlawful for any owner or any person having the control of any such animal to permit the same to run at large in the state.”  There are other laws that could apply, but that one seems to fit what you are talking about more directly. During my many years as a State Patrol trooper, I have seen a lot of farm animals on the roadway, and many people have been seriously injured or killed hitting them. Some fences get in disarray and ill repair to the point the animals get out once in a while. We are always getting calls on this, many times in the middle of the night. As far as I know, most police agencies are good about helping get the animal off the roadway and to the rightful owner before the animal(s) get hit. Also, they usually do this without taking enforcement action. However, I believe repeated offenses would surely warrant enforcement action, especially if an officer knows there is a history of animals (being at large) involving the same farm animal owner. We all need to work together and do our part to prevent these needless tragedies and make our roadways safer for everyone. If anyone reading this knows of this happening, you need to let law enforcement know as soon as possible, so they can at least talk with the owner. They probably already know about it if it’s a chronic issue in that location. All animal fencing should be kept in adequate condition and maintained as often as necessary. Thanks for asking.

 

As a school bus driver, how do I minimize driving distractions?

Q: I drive a school bus and have expectations from parents, the school, the bus company and myself. I transport 50 students ages 4-½ to 18, with an equally wide range of personalities. I have had an assault occur along my bus route, the cutting and damaging to school bus seats and property, and a first-grade student who writes sayings on school-bus property that might be heard at a construction site. How do I prioritize to minimize distracted driving in my line of work?

A: Let me thank you for providing your service of transporting what I believe to be the world’s most precious cargo – our children. To say you have dynamic distractions would be an understatement. First and foremost is the traffic safety you are responsible for – getting the students to and from those destinations. As busy and distracting as it can be, it is best to focus on what we CAN control. I’m sure your bus company and school district have policies on how to deal with these other issues you mention and would encourage you to do that, along with common sense. If something needs to be tended to immediately, find a safe place to pull over and park completely off the road, as to not create a hazard. Activate the warning or emergency lights as needed and provide the attention, as required. Let me again thank you for the job you do.

Parents, talk to your children about school bus safety both on and off the bus. Kids need reminders, too. When on the bus: stay seated, listen to the driver and use quiet voices.

 

Is it legal to knee board in ditch water while hitched to a vehicle?

Q: Now that spring is here and the snow has been melting, the ditches are full of water. The other day, I noticed some people driving down the road pulling a person hanging onto a rope and knee boarding in the water in the ditch. Is this legal?

A: This is illegal and unsafe. Here is what Minnesota State Statute 169.46 says about hitching behind vehicles – “No person shall hitch a toboggan, hand sled, bicycle or other similar device onto any motor vehicle or streetcar while being used on a highway.” In other words, keep it behind the boat. I would encourage some common sense to go along with spring fever.

 

‘Did you know’ facts about motorcycles, training

With spring upon us and motorcycles sharing the highways once again, I wanted to use this opportunity to bring some attention to the subject. Here are the “did you know” facts.

Did you know, in Minnesota, more than half of motorcycle crashes are single-vehicle crashes? Motorcycle use is at an all-time high and the two primary factors involved when they crash are “driver inexperience” and “speed.”

Did you know one main reason that motorcyclists are killed in crashes is because the motorcycle itself provides virtually no protection? The occupant protection that is built in to our passenger cars protects us greatly, but cannot be incorporated within a motorcycle. Nationwide, 80 percent of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death; a comparable figure for automobiles is only 20 percent.

Did you know, nationwide, 25 percent of motorcycle operators killed in crashes are not licensed or are improperly licensed to operate a motorcycle?

Did you know approximately half of all fatal single-vehicle motorcycle crashes involved alcohol? Driving a motorcycle requires more skill and coordination than driving most other vehicles and impairment, even at lower levels, diminishes judgment and motor skills greatly, first and foremost.

Did you know it is not advisable to buy a motorcycle you cannot push or pull upright by yourself? A motorcycle must be the right fit for the person and the style of the cycle should fit the use.

But still, almost half of all motorcycle crashes involve a collision with another vehicle. In many crashes, the driver never saw the motorcyclist — or didn’t see the rider until it was too late. There are many reasons why other drivers do not see motorcyclists. So it’s important for everyone to pay attention.

For more information on Motorcycles, crash facts, training course and research go to: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles .

 

Can auto dealers be charged with a violation for illegal amounts of tint on windows?

Q: I know somebody who bought a car recently and the windows had an illegal amount of tint on it when they bought it. I heard somewhere that the auto dealer can be charged with a violation, is that correct?

A: What you heard is correct. The law changed in 2009. I will list what applies to auto dealers: Minnesota State Statute (MSS) 168.27 sub.30 states: “A new motor-vehicle dealer, used motor-vehicle dealer or motor vehicle lessor may not sell or lease a motor vehicle at retail for registration in Minnesota that does not meet the glazing material requirements under section 169.71, subdivision 4.” Also according to MSS 169.71 Sub.5(a) “No person shall sell or offer for sale or use on any motor vehicle, windows or windshields that are composed of, covered by, or treated with material that fails to comply with the provisions of subdivision 4. No person shall apply or offer to apply, as part of a business transaction, material to motor-vehicle windows or windshields that fails to comply with the provisions of subdivision 4.”  This states those people or businesses that apply an illegal amount of tint are also in violation. Those that violate this can be charged with a misdemeanor. This does not mean you are automatically exempt from a citation yourself. As the driver/owner of a vehicle, you can be held accountable and cited also.  Law enforcement can and do follow up on issues regarding tint but if you do have problems down the road, you may be looking at a civil matter with the business you dealt with. If you purchase a vehicle that has tinted windows and would like to know if you are legal, here is what I suggest. Stop in at a Minnesota State Patrol office, sheriff’s office or your local police department. Most agencies and officers are equipped with tint meters and would be able to let you know what your tint level is at. I’ve been approached several times when fueling up my squad car and am always glad to provide some insight.  It’s better to find out sooner than later (red lights in the rear-view mirror) that you need to make the necessary changes.

 

Is it safe to use a shoulder to retrieve mail? Is it OK to pass a left-turning vehicle on the right side? 

Q: I watch my neighbors almost every day pull up to their mailboxes on the shoulder. The road has a shoulder, but traffic still has to move over to center line. It looks very unsafe. I have watched traffic flash their lights and honk their horns, but they keep doing it. What is the rule of the road in this case? I know it would be a lot safer if they just pulled into their driveway and walked to the mailbox, but that doesn’t work in a “me-me” society. Note: they pull into the oncoming shoulder. Also, while driving home the other night, a car was turning left into a driveway. I was the third car behind the turning car. I slowed and moved a little onto the shoulder. The two cars in front of me passed on the right of the turning car. The truck that was behind me could not get past me and was livid – honking, yelling and flying the bird. I felt bad to slow him down but I know better than to pass on the right. Was I in the right to block the shoulder of the road? Thank you.

A:  You can’t lawfully drive over the center line (the wrong direction) for any reason except to make a safe and legal pass. If there is a crash, there is going to be trouble, for sure. It would be a lot safer (though technically not legal) if it was on a dead-end road out in the middle of nowhere, or on a cul-de-sac or similar, but we see this being done on hills and in no-passing zones. For the passing-on-the-right part of your question, you can be over to the right of your lane, but if you are stopped and are parked on or over the white fog line (marking the shoulder), then you could be liable if in a crash. Worse yet, you could get hit and injured or killed (along with someone else). We advise not to do that. Passing on the right is against the law unless there is a lane provided – like a bypass lane – or if you are driving on a multi-laned highway. A driver can never use the shoulder of a road (paved or unpaved) or a turn lane for passing on the right. It is unsafe, and not legal, so we are asking drivers not to do that.

 

What is the law regarding motorists flashing lights to warn others of speed traps?

Q: There was a very recent ruling by a judge that motorists can legally flash their lights to warn other motorists of a speed trap. How does this affect law enforcement and is this issue that simple, or is there a lot more to it than that? Thanks.

A: I heard of the ruling, but I have not yet read any specific legal documents related to that ruling.  Remember, our traffic law in Minnesota requires dimming your bright lights within 1,000 feet of meeting another vehicle, and that still stands. M.S.S. 169.61 (b)  states: “When the driver of a vehicle approaches a vehicle within 1,000 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.”

When you are meeting another driver and they flash their lights at you, the first thing most drivers think of is that maybe you have your own bright lights on and the other driver is trying to get you to dim them.

Other reasons motorists flash their lights is to warn of a hazard, like deer on or near the highway, objects in the roadway or a host of other reasons or hazards. I suppose it differs from where you live, but in my circles, the least of all reasons motorists are flashing their headlights is to warn someone of a speed trap. I don’t think it’s a big topic of discussion in many law-enforcement circles.

The main point is, when another driver flashes their headlights at you, are you always going to know the exact reason why? If some drivers think there is a speed trap ahead and they slow down, then we are “money ahead” it seems and we have one less speeding driver out on the highway. I am not sure, but that is probably why the ruling came out, and it is no surprise and nothing new really.

Please inform public about trains, rail safety

Q: In my defensive driving class recently, the instructor talked about trains and rail safety, and I thought this would be a good topic for you to inform the public about. Thanks!

A: I have responded to a few of these types of crashes during my career and they can bring a lot of unnecessary misery for sure. Collisions with trains are mostly preventable. Car driver inattention and impatience are cited as the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.

In the recent past, our partners at the Minnesota Department of Transportation have worked to share the following general rail safety tips with the public to make sure they are not in the way of a train:

Motorists should always stop their vehicle when crossing gates are down or lights are flashing; wait for the crossing gates to rise and lights to stop flashing; look both ways, listen and proceed with caution.

Also, motorists need to obey all signs and signals at railroad crossings and never stop their car on railroad tracks; always keep their car behind the white lines when approaching an intersection at railroad tracks.

Motorists and passengers should get out of the car immediately if it stalls while crossing the tracks, then call 911 or the emergency notification number located on the railroad signal equipment. If a train is coming, abandon the car. Proceed quickly toward the train at a 45-degree angle, so if the train strikes your car, you will be safe from flying debris.

Bicyclists and pedestrians should always look both ways before crossing railroad tracks, cross only in designated areas and avoid crossing when gates are down. They should be aware trains may operate any time throughout the day and night in either direction, and please know walking on railroad tracks is illegal.

How many work-zone crashes occur in Minnesota and how many workers are actually hurt or killed in them?

Q:  Once in a while I hear about safety in work zones, like road construction zones, and we all drive through them a lot, that’s for sure.  How many workers are actually hurt or killed in them in Minnesota and how many crashes are there in work zones, do we know really?

A:  Yes, we do know! At the end of 2013, I saw some statistics that you are asking about. The Department of Public Safety reports, in the past five years, there were 11,485 work-zone crashes, resulting in 4,833 injuries and 54 fatalities (including two worker deaths). The 2013 data is preliminary so, as data continues to come in, these numbers could go even higher.

The problem with work zones is too many drivers are not paying attention and they are driving too fast. When you see cones, barricades, barrels, signs, work trucks or more, you need to slow down immediately and start “reading the scene.” You may have to reduce your speed greatly or switch lanes, or even stop. Most drivers wait until the last second to take action and that’s too late. You need to be looking ahead and watching for all kinds of hazards.

As spring and summer approaches, you will see more and more work zones as you travel. Be careful, pay attention and slow down.

 

Is winter driving worse than summer?

Q:  I would be very interested to know if winter driving is really worse than summer?  It seems like we hear a lot more about crashes in the winter time, but I suppose it may or may not be true.  Thanks for talking about this topic.

A: Well, you are not alone if you think that winter driving is worse. According to a survey sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Rural Safety at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, about 83 percent of Americans consider winter to be the most dangerous season for driving on rural roadways. About eight percent of Americans believe summer is the most dangerous time; about four percent say spring and four percent think fall.

Actually, while we do have a lot of vehicles off the road in the winter and a lot of fender bender crashes, winter – at least in Minnesota – lacks in comparison to the amount of fatalities, and serious injuries and crashes that our summer produces. This is largely due to the fact motorists typically travel at higher speeds in June, July and August when the weather is nice and the roads are in better condition. There are a host of other factors as well, but high speed seems to be prevalent. In the winter, we see vehicles being driven too fast for conditions, also a speed-related component, but the speeds are lower overall compared to summer.

A lot of drivers tend to blame the road authorities and the weather for the winter crashes, when in fact it’s the human driver error that is responsible. We all need to take personal responsibility for our own actions behind the wheel. We all need to realize driving a motor vehicle can be one of the most dangerous things we do on a daily basis and we need to be paying strict attention to our driving, especially in adverse weather situations.

 

What is the definition of ‘black ice’ and does it exist?

Q: Dear protector of humanity, first of all, thank you for the awesome job you folks do. You are appreciated! I have a husband who refuses to believe there is such a thing as “black ice.” Could you clarify and hopefully make a believer out of an individual who could possibly be a crash waiting to happen? Thank you very much.

A: Thank you for those very kind words. I’ve been called a lot of things in this profession, but that one is a first and I truly appreciate it. I would be glad to talk about “black ice” and, as I write this (early March), I think it’s fair to say we have enough unpredictable weather that could affect our roads. Here is my best definition of black ice: “A nearly transparent film of ice on a dark surface, such as a paved road, that is difficult to see.” With my nearly 16 years of service with the Minnesota State Patrol in northern Minnesota, I can assure you it does exist. It’s rare, because I believe almost all ice is visible due to the sheen it puts out. A person’s vision and attentiveness could be the issue, along with the sun and other visibility factors.

Another term used in our parts of this great state is “blow ice.” Troopers and motorists have been dealing with this for the past two days (March 5 and 6) in west central Minnesota. I would describe this as, “when the wind blows snow across the road, either warmer temperatures or vehicle tires (or both) cause it to melt and freeze quickly, becoming ice.” Just another way we get slippery roads without freezing rain.

Both issues are reminders to always pay attention. Evaluate your drive as you move along and immediately re-evaluate it. Drivers must focus and concentrate on driving. End your winter on a safe note and continue it all year long.

 

What is the difference between using ‘crash’ or ‘accident’ in the media?

Q: As a traffic-safety official, I’m very upset people don’t realize there is some significance as to what is going on with using the term “crash” as compared to using the word “accident” in news articles and other media. I see both terms used and I personally know there is some intentionality about this. I know you use the word crash for a reason, so can you do an article about this issue so we can get everyone on the same page?

A: There is indeed something going on, and intentionally for the most part. The spark for this issue stems from a court trial from more than a decade ago involving the intentional ramming of a police vehicle, which resulted in the death of a police officer. During the trial, an attorney brought up the point the incident was referred to by police in all of the reports as an “accident.” It also was reported by police on an “accident” report form, thus it was argued the incident was not intentional and charges should be dismissed. I won’t get into the results of that trial, but ever since that time, traffic-safety officials in the state have made a huge effort to influence everyone to use the word “crash” and not the word “accident.”

Personally, I have been on board with this since the beginning. Mostly, the initial efforts for change were aimed at officers, media and traffic-safety officials. We know human driving error causes the vast majority of crashes and are therefore preventable. These crashes are not accidents and we need to use the correct term to define this.

Currently, the crash reports still have the word “accident” on them; however, I do think we have made great progress in changing the vernacular from accident to crash. We still have a lot of people using the term accident instead of crash, and it quite frankly is something all traffic-safety officials would like to see change. Toward Zero Deaths program officials also feel very strongly about this and would love to see this change immediately. In addition, local traffic-safety coalitions have helped a lot with this issue in many regions of the state.

I know this effort continues at the Department of Public Safety, in particular the Office of Traffic Safety. Also, most spokespersons at the Minnesota Department of Transportation have also learned to use the term crash in interviews. Even though we continue to emphasize the word crash, the media frequently refers to them as accidents. I’m sure this is because they have grown up hearing crashes called “car accidents.” As far as the media in general, I think there is such a turnover in some media outlets, reporters move on and up into other venues and it seems like we are training in the new ones all the time.

Everyone should get into the habit of using the word “crash” instead of “accident,” so we can all be on the same page with traffic safety and move forward.

 

What items do police officers ask you for when you are stopped?

Q: What items do police officers ask you for when you are stopped? I see on television it’s different sometimes like in different states. I was stopped many years ago, and I don’t plan on getting stopped anytime soon but I just want to make sure I am prepared.

A: “License and registration Ma’am” isn’t always the case, that’s for sure. I’m asked this question frequently, and I am happy to answer it for you yet once again, especially since we have so many enforcement projects going on. In Minnesota, officers typically ask you for two things. The first thing is a valid Minnesota driver’s license. The second thing is your current proof of insurance. If you don’t have your driver’s license with you as required by law, then the officer will ask for another form of picture identification and will run your information on the computer for status, warrants and other issues.

As for the insurance proof, the law requires you to carry proof of current insurance for the vehicle you are operating, so if you are stopped by an officer you will have it available when asked. The insurance proof must contain the vehicle identification information (including make, model and year) as well as the effective and expiration dates of the policy. The date you are stopped has to be within those dates. Carrying around the same card for long periods of time after expiration does not satisfy the law requirements. Officers typically cite you for not having proof of insurance, then you have to settle with the court on the matter, so it pays to keep the current insurance proof in your vehicle, so it can be shown to police by the driver if stopped. If you don’t have it now, get a copy from your insurance agent. Electronic proof is now acceptable by law.

Registration cards do not need to be carried in a regular passenger vehicle. If you are operating a commercial motor vehicle, then they do and an officer will ask for that as well. Any other information asked of a motorist on a traffic stop will depend on the totality of the circumstances surrounding the contact incident.

After giving you all of this information, I just want to say that of course, driving at safe speeds and always buckling up (including your passengers) are simple ways to avoid a roadside chat with an officer. Thanks for asking.

 

What is the penalty for driving around a barricade?

Q: I’ve noticed the Minnesota State Patrol has been busy with some bad storms this winter and had to close down the highways. What is the penalty for driving around a barricade?

A: This is a very good topic and, being this is Minnesota, we need to remember there is plenty of winter and potential storms left. This is what Minnesota State Statute 160.2715 says; “It shall be unlawful to drive over, through or around any barricade, fence or obstruction erected for the purpose of preventing traffic from passing over a portion of a highway closed to public travel or to remove, deface or damage any such barricade, fence or obstruction.” A violation of this is a misdemeanor, with a fine up to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail.

When the roads are closed, the matter is taken very seriously for the safety of not only the motoring public, but also for the law enforcement, snow plows and other responding personnel that may be on those closed roads providing the services they do. One of the best resources to get road closure information is to call “511” or www.511mn.org. I would also encourage everyone who may need to travel during inclement weather to tune into local radio and TV stations. Not only myself but the State Patrol, Department of Public Safety and Minnesota Department of Transportation are quick to relay that information so they are able to inform those who are listening. Much information is available on websites and social media (Facebook and Twitter).

This winter, I’ve personally dealt with several individuals who chose to put their personal schedule  ahead of safety and drive around barricades onto closed roads in horrible weather and tell me they had “no idea” they were closed. We are living in an age where technology and information are immediately available. There really is no excuse. I just want to see everyone stay safe and use some good common sense.

 

It’s the law to slow down, move over for emergency vehicles

This article will not be the typical question/answer session, as I have chosen to use this opportunity to talk about my recent experience of being involved in a crash. Last month, I responded to the report of a one-vehicle crash on I-94 in central Minnesota. I arrived minutes after the crash occurred and found a single vehicle that ran off the left side of the road into the median and struck the cable median barrier. I parked my squad car completely off the main lanes of travel onto the left shoulder and activated my emergency lights. The road I had traveled on up to this point had been very slippery for the last five miles. Despite the blowing snow, visibility was good across the flat and open area. I returned to my squad car after checking on the driver. A few seconds after I got back into my squad car, I was struck from behind.

The vehicle that had hit me had been traveling along at freeway speed, lost control, spun out and struck my squad car. That impact then sent my squad down into the median and slammed it up against the vehicle I was initially helping from the earlier crash. The only way I can describe what I felt at that moment was stunned; but, I knew I was good enough to move on and do what I needed to do. Due to the damage and where my squad car now sat, I had to exit through my driver’s window. I then checked on the occupants from both vehicles. Everyone was alright – amazingly.

Despite being hit and injured, I consider myself very lucky. I feel fortunate I was able to go back to work immediately. Vehicles are replaceable, people are not. Unfortunately, these types of crashes happen far too often. On average, there are approximately 30 Minnesota State Patrol squad cars hit along the roadside each year, injuring numerous Troopers. The reason why I wanted to share my story was to help make more people aware. It’s simple, move over and slow down. Here is what the law says:

• When traveling on a road with two or more lanes, you must keep over one full lane away from stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights activated — ambulance, fire, law enforcement, maintenance and construction vehicles.

• Reduce speed if you are unable to safely move over a lane.

• Failing to take these actions endangers personnel who provide critical and life-saving services. Fines can exceed $100.

I would like to add this: As a courtesy and when able, move over and slow down for any vehicle, bicyclist or pedestrian you see along the highway. By doing so, you not only will keep yourself and everyone else safer, you will contribute to reducing the number of unnecessary crashes on our roads. I also would like to add, PAY ATTENTION. Too many crashes continue to be caused by distracted drivers. When we start accepting responsibility and hold ourselves accountable for the actions and choices we make on every commute – no matter how short or long it may be – only then will we make the true progress we need to reach the goal of “Toward Zero Deaths.”

 

‘Automatic’ headlights don’t always ensure other required lights are on

Q: My car has running lights and I always assumed that meant my rear lights were on as well, but my husband let me know one day as he was following behind me in the fog that my tail lights were not on. Since then, I have noticed many other drivers must assume the same thing. You might want to let them know they need to actually turn on their lights during the day when it’s foggy or they risk being rear ended. I think this is a good idea for an article, thanks.

A: Very true! We have been fighting that battle for many years now and I hear about it all the time from people. I have always taught motorists to drive with their headlights on at all times, even during the day, so they can avoid the whole issue of when to have headlights on. Even if you think you have headlights on all the time, you might not. Turn them on manually; then you will know for sure.

Daytime running lights cannot be used in lieu of actual headlights during the times that actual headlights are required to be on. During those required times of headlights, all the other lights also are required (e.g., tail lights, marker lamps, etc.). Those other lights are not always on when the so-called “automatic” lights are on either.

 

Is there anything wrong or illegal with pulling over at a right-turn lane to let aggressive drivers pass?

Q: One thing that bothers me while driving is when a faster vehicle comes up close behind, but can’t get past me due to oncoming traffic, a no-passing zone or other. Sometimes, to get the guy off my bumper, I look for a right-turn lane or a large driveway on the road ahead – then signal, move to the right and pretend that’s where I’m turning. The faster vehicle goes ahead of me, then, I pull back onto the road and go on my way without feeling pressured. Occasionally when I’ve had a passenger, I’ve gotten quizzical looks, like: “What are you doing?” Once my passenger even commented this wasn’t the way the right-turn lanes are supposed to be used. Maybe not, but is there anything wrong or illegal about what I do?

A: If you pull over and they go past you, and you were not stopped yet and the lane is clear, then technically, I suppose you can signal and go back out into the lane. Be very careful and remember that generally, turn lanes and shoulders are not driving lanes. If you get in a crash, you could be charged with a few different things, including (but not limited to) unsafe change of course.

Drivers that follow too closely are dangerous drivers. They also are aggressive drivers. If you are being followed too closely, you basically have two options. First, slow down a bit and give that close-follower a chance to pass. If they don’t pass within a short or reasonable amount of time (your discretion), then you need to just pull over and stop on the shoulder (not in a turn lane or driving lane like a bypass lane) and let that aggressive driver pass you. Let the driver get ahead of you before coming back out onto the roadway, and don’t forget to look (checking your mirrors too) and signal before coming back into your lane of traffic.

If you are following another vehicle, the general rule taught nationwide is to allow at least three seconds minimum between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. A majority of drivers do follow too closely on a regular basis. Add a second for each condition that exists that you can’t control (for example: lighting, weather, road, traffic or other). We all have the responsibility to drive safely within the existing conditions and many drivers don’t. This is all especially critical in winter weather and road conditions. Thanks for asking.

 

Who goes first at a four-way stop?

Q: People seem very confused at a four-way stop. They don’t seem to know who should go first. Please help!

A: I get asked this question a lot, probably because of the actions of aggressive drivers out there.

Police don’t sit and watch to make sure everyone is taking turns and going in the right order. The bottom line is that we don’t crash. The only thing the law says is you have to yield to the driver on your right. If you are the first one there you should be the first one to go — see M.S.S. 169.20 Sub 1(b).

We seem to have a lot of problems when there is a lot of traffic. Typically, the turning traffic needs to yield to the straight ahead traffic. It’s important to signal your intention to turn, so other drivers can adjust. We see what often happens is when one driver is going straight ahead, the driver coming in the opposite direction will go, too, and then the other direction of traffic will do the same thing. That works out well, until a driver wants to turn, and other drivers don’t seem to know what to do. Having eye contact with the other drivers helps a lot, because you can gesture someone to go.

We need to be courteous and not be concerned about who has the right of way. We just need to get through these intersections safely, without a crash. I hope this helps. Don’t be in a hurry, and drive defensively, using common sense and patience. Thanks for asking.

All drivers need to know when to use their headlights or use them any time their moving

Q: I am a 34-year veteran police officer, nearing the end of my career. The recent snowfalls made me angry, seeing all the drivers not using their headlights. I was kind of shocked because during these snowfalls, I bet at least 25 percent of drivers or more did not have any lights on at all, and many just had daytime running lights, which of course, are not considered legal headlights for inclement weather, because as everyone should know by now, when lights are required then all vehicle lights are required, not just headlights. Headlights are used so you can be seen, not just so you can see – many drivers don’t seem to understand that fact.

During the snowstorms, I also saw many drivers only had their parking lights on too while driving.  Aren’t people aware of the law? I think all of us officers should start really going after these drivers with tickets, and maybe we will get somewhere. I have talked with a lot of officers about this, and they are fed up too. Maybe you could keep on trying to educate the public about this, and do another article saying that having your headlights on can save lives. Maybe at least some drivers will wise up. Many officers have written serious injury or even fatal crashes that could have been avoided if only someone had their headlights on. In fact, we (officers) see it all the time. When I am at a stop sign, and I look left or right, I always see the vehicle that has its headlights on first, even if there are other closer vehicles that don’t have their headlights on. Even after all these years of seeing this, I can hardly believe so many drivers just don’t “get it” and are driving in this unsafe manner.

Please do what you can to inform drivers they need to actually turn the headlights on manually in many cases, and some vehicles with (supposed) “automatic” headlights don’t actually turn all the other lights on that are required when headlights are too. Sometimes we (officers) are busy at a scene and we don’t have time to go chasing after the non-headlight drivers, but some of them pay for it when they are in a crash. You would think drivers would want to do all they can do to be safe and keep their passengers – who are often family members – safe. Thanks for whatever you can do, and good luck.

A:  You about said it all, and very well at that. I will add traffic safety officials everywhere are advocating to drive with your headlights on all the time, so you don’t have to worry about what all of the specific requirements of the law are. After the recent lengthy snowstorms, I heard this same exact complaint from numerous sources and regions.

Just to cover all the bases: In part, M.S.S. 169.48 says: “Every vehicle upon a highway within this state: at any time from sunset to sunrise; at any time when it is raining, snowing, sleeting or hailing; and at any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke, fog or other conditions or there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead; shall display lighted headlamps, lighted tail lamps and illuminating devices…” A good rule of thumb: If your wipers need to be on, then your headlights should be on too.

What should a person do if they are involved in a crash?

Q: What should a person do if they are involved in a crash?

A: This is a very good question and I must say it depends on many factors in each circumstance. Each situation is different and the person involved must evaluate the incident and decide the best course of action to minimize the risk they place themselves in. If it’s not an injury or serious crash it may be best to get your vehicle out of the lanes of traffic and to a safe location before exiting or exchanging information with the other driver involved. This may be dependent on the amount of traffic, highway conditions and/or location (curve, hill, blind spot, etc…). If your vehicle is disabled and you cannot get out of the lanes, you must evaluate what is more dangerous, staying in the vehicle or leaving it and getting to a place of safety on foot. If you stay in your vehicle, put on your seatbelt. If for some reason you’ve lost sight or contact with the other motorist involved in the crash, report that as soon as possible to law enforcement to prevent issues of charges with a hit and run. If someone in the crash is injured or killed, the law requires you call the nearest law enforcement agency or 911 as quickly as possible.

If you come upon a crash, and depending on the situation, you should evaluate the incident and decide on the best course of action to minimize the risk you place yourself in. If you are the first on the scene and have stopped to render aid, park your vehicle well off the roadway away from the crash so it will not be a hazard. Warn other drivers of danger with four-way flashers, flares and flashlights. If there is personal injury, serious property damage or danger to other motorists at the crash scene, call 911. Be prepared to provide location, such as distance from an intersection or milepost number. Account for all occupants of the vehicles and aid the injured if you are qualified. Do not move injured persons unless they are endangered by traffic, fire or excessive bleeding.

 

What are the differences in the new youth driver’s license laws?

Q: What are the differences in the new youth driver’s license laws?  15-year-old farm-permit user, provisional 16-year-old driver’s license through age 18. Please include how many non-related passengers they can have and what times of the day they can drive. This is a good refresher to the parents with teens this age.

A: This is what Minnesota law says in reference to farm permits: “the commissioner may issue a restricted farm-work license to operate a motor vehicle to a person who has attained the age of 15 years and who, except for age, is qualified to hold a driver’s license.”

• The restricted license shall be issued solely for the purpose of authorizing the person to whom the restricted license is issued to assist the person’s parents or guardians with farm work.

• A person holding this restricted license may operate a motor vehicle only during daylight hours and only within a radius of 20 miles of the parent’s or guardian’s farmhouse; however, in no case may a person holding the restricted license operate a motor vehicle in a city of the first class (population over 100,000.)

• A copy of a property tax statement showing the applicant’s parent or guardian owns land that is classified as agricultural land or a copy of a rental statement or agreement showing the applicant’s parent or guardian rents land classified as agricultural land. Also, a written verified statement by the applicant’s parent or guardian setting forth the necessity for the license.

As for new drivers with a provisional driver’s license (16 to 18 years of age), for the first six months of licensure, driving is prohibited from midnight to 5 a.m. The nighttime limitation is lifted after the first six months of licensure. Exemptions:

• Driving when accompanied by a licensed driver age 25 or older.

• Driving between home and place of employment.

• Driving to/from home and a school event for which the school has not provided transportation.

• Driving for employment purposes.

Passenger limitations: For the first six months of licensure, only one passenger under the age of 20 is permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. For the second six months of licensure, no more than three passengers under the age of 20 are permitted, unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Exemption:

• Passengers under age 20 who are members of the driver’s immediate family are permitted.

 

How is Minnesota doing overall in fatalities per vehicle miles traveled compared to past years?

Q:  I know Minnesota is doing well on our low fatality rate, but do we have the stats on the vehicle miles traveled when compared to our fatal numbers? How are we doing overall in recent years compared to the past?

A:  The vehicle miles traveled rate is something that is kept track of by the Department of Public Safety, Office of Traffic Safety. The information from DPS is offered to answer your question:

The VMT-based fatality rate for 2012 is 0.69, which is one of the lowest rates in the nation. The VMT fatality rate has shown dramatic improvement in the last five decades – the VMT was 5.52 in 1966!

Our best year since 1944 was in 2011, when the VMT-based fatality rate was 0.65, one of the lowest in the nation.

DPS’s online records only go back to 2004, but I know we did have a spike with 657 deaths that year. Since 2002, the fatal count itself has gone down every year except 2007 and 2012. Because of the decrease in traffic deaths, the VMT-based fatality rate for 2004 was 1.00. This is a decrease from 2003 when the fatality rate was 1.18. However, the VMT fatality rate has shown dramatic improvement in the last three decades. For example, 1990 had a rate of 1.47, 1980 had a rate of 3.03, and 1970 had a rate of 4.41. Of course, this means as more drivers travel more miles each year, the number of people killed in proportion to the number of miles driven has decreased (as a general rule).

The fatality rate in Minnesota per 100 million vehicle miles traveled remains low and we likely won’t know the 2013 driving year stats for a few months into 2014. As I write this, we are nearing the end of the year and are running similar to last year, but we still have time to lower that rate.

Law enforcement is working very hard with special enforcement projects to help lower our VMT fatality rate. You can do your part if you slow down, buckle up, drive sober and pay attention. Thanks for asking.

Author: jon_y51o5q81

Leave a Reply