Ask a trooper 2016

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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, Minn. 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

What are the legal ramifications if someone is arrested for DWI with a child in a vehicle?

Q:  What are the legal ramifications if someone is arrested for DWI with a child in a vehicle?

A:  If the child is less than 16 years of age and is greater than 36 months younger than the driver, the DWI violation would be enhanced to include Child Endangerment.

• First offense DWI under a 0.16: 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.

• First offense DWI under a 0.16 with a child: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine.

• First offense DWI over a 0.16: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine.

• First offense DWI over a 0.16 with a child: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine and vehicle forfeiture.

• Subsequent DWI/DUI and impaired driving offenses will result in longer potential jail time, higher fines, longer driver’s license suspensions and harsher penalties.

For a complete list of the criminal and administrative penalties you may face for subsequent DWIs, please visit the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/laws/Pages/impaired-driving.aspx.

Minnesota’s enhanced DWI enforcement and education efforts have contributed to the continued reduction of alcohol-related deaths. Still, impaired driving remains a serious threat.

In the past five years (2011-15), there were 462 drunk-driving-related deaths in Minnesota – 95 people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes in 2015 alone. In addition, each year approximately 27,000 people are arrested in Minnesota for DWI with one in seven Minnesota drivers having a DWI on their record.

Help Prevent Impaired Driving:

• Plan for a safe ride – designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration.

• Offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere.

• Buckle up – the best defense against a drunk driver.

• Report drunk driving – call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license-plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

It’s important to note DWI laws apply to all vehicles including: cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, riding lawn mowers and golf carts.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and of course, drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

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

How long do I have before I need to update my address on my driver’s license after moving?

Q: How long do I have before I need to update my address on my driver’s license after moving?

A:  Anytime a person moves in Minnesota to a new address within this state, they need to update their driver’s license within 30 days.  If a person moved to Minnesota from another state, they have 60 days to change their driver’s license and address over to Minnesota.  The same also applies to those changing their name on a driver’s license.Note: students who are attending college are generally exempt and can still use their parents’ address.

What is the difference between careless or reckless driving? What about ‘exhibition driving?’

Q: What is the difference between careless or reckless driving? What about “exhibition driving?”

A: In general, the difference between reckless and careless is that “reckless” is generally “intentional” or the driver “should know” the driving behavior could injure or kill someone. Here’s more detail on how they differ: Reckless driving – This involves a motorist who’s aware of and disregards the risk that their driving behavior may result in harm to another or another’s property. That’s considered misdemeanor reckless driving, and if the behavior results in great bodily harm or death to another person, it’s then gross misdemeanor reckless driving.

A driver shall not race any vehicle on any street or highway. Any person who willfully compares or contests relative speeds is guilty of racing, which constitutes reckless driving. It doesn’t matter whether or not the speed is over the speed limit.

Careless driving – This involves a motorist who carelessly or heedlessly operates or halts any vehicle upon any street or highway that disregards the rights of others, or endangers or is likely to endanger any property or any person. This includes endangering themselves or their passengers. This is considered misdemeanor careless driving.

Exhibition driving – Minnesota does not have an “exhibition driving” law. “Exhibition driving” is usually listed as an ordinance within cities, counties, townships or other.  In general, the difference between state law and an ordinance is that a state law is passed by your state government and is effective statewide. Ordinances are “laws” passed by the local government – city council, county commissioners or other – and only in effect within that border.

I’ve usually seen most “exhibition driving” ordinances state: “Unreasonable acceleration of a motor vehicle or acceleration without apparent reason and accomplished in such a manner as to cause squealing or screeching sounds by the tires, or the throwing of sand or gravel by the tires of the said vehicle, or both.”

These do not apply to an emergency vehicle responding to a call or when in pursuit of an actual or suspected violator. They also don’t apply to any raceway, racing facility or other public event sanctioned by the appropriate governmental authority.

 

What are the laws on commercial vehicles having window tint?

Q: I was wondering if someone could tell me what the law is on commercial vehicles having window tint? I drive a dump truck and was wondering if window tint is allowed as long as it’s the 50 percent that’s allowed in passenger vehicles or if it’s illegal for dump trucks/semi’s to have any window tint. Any advice or a link to where I can find out would be greatly appreciated.

A: Window tint is allowed to the immediate right and left of the driver in a commercial vehicle, but it has to allow 70 percent light transmittance instead of the 50 percent on passenger vehicles. The transmittance restriction does not apply to other windows. Code of federal regulations “49 CFR 393.60(d)” spells out the requirements. Be advised, 70-75 percent is about what factory tint measures out to in most vehicle windows (unaltered.)

 

Why ‘Click It or Ticket’ if seat belt use is at an all-time high?

Q: I have heard a lot about “Click It or Ticket” recently; I thought seat belt use was at an all-time high.

A: The 2015 Minnesota Seat Belt Survey shows 94-percent compliance for front-seat occupants. In 1987, there were 4,176 vehicle occupants who suffered severe injuries in traffic crashes – that number has dropped substantially to 745 in 2015.

In a three year period (2013–2015), 44 percent of the 832 people killed in motor-vehicle crashes were not wearing seat belts. In 2015 alone, 91 unbelted motorists lost their lives on Minnesota roads.

Seat-belt use in Greater Minnesota is a serious problem. In fact, belt use is significantly lower here than in the Twin Cities area. As a result, in 2015, more than 87 percent of the state’s fatalities occurred in greater Minnesota. This is hard to believe considering more than half the state’s population resides in the Twin Cities’ metro area.

Minnesota Child Seat Law and Steps:

  • In Minnesota, all children must be in a child restraint until they are 4 feet, 9 inches tall or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
  • Rear-facing child seats – Newborns to at least 1 year and 20 pounds; recommended up to age 2. It is safest to keep a child rear-facing as long as possible.
  • Forward-facing seats – Age 2 until around age 4. It’s preferable to keep children in a harnessed restraint until they reach the maximum weight limit.
  • Booster seats – Use after outgrowing a forward-facing harnessed restraint; safest to remain in a booster until 4 feet, 9 inches tall or at least age 8, whichever comes first.
  • Seat belts – Use when children can sit with their back against the vehicle seat and have their knees bent comfortably over the edge with their feet touching the floor. Belts should be worn snug across the hips or thighs and should never be tucked under the arm or behind the back.

More than 300 law enforcement agencies will participate in the May 23–June 5 Click It or Ticket campaign. Even if you think you are a good driver, seat belts protect you from unsafe drivers and road hazards. Speak up — if you’re driving, make sure all of your passengers are buckled up before you put the car into “drive.” You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and, of course, drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

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

Can you talk about railroad crossing safety?

Q: Can you talk about railroad crossing safety and the laws that cover it?

A: In my career, I had responded and investigated train/vehicle crashes where the majority of them resulted with a fatality or a serious injury to the vehicle occupants. Collisions with trains are mostly preventable. In Minnesota, failure to yield the right-of-way, disregard a traffic control device, perform an improper turn, and inattention and impatience are cited as the most common factors contributing to motor vehicle/train crashes.

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

 

Who decides what color the Minnesota registration tabs on license plates should be?

Q: I’ve noticed the tabs on our license plates change color every year. Who decides what color the Minnesota registration tabs on license plates should be?

A: The Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services uses five colors for registration stickers: red, gold, blue, green and white. The DVS chose those colors with the intention they will be easily visible and recognizable for law enforcement.

Under Minnesota law, license plates must display the expiration month in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner.

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

License Plate

Should drivers only stop in a crosswalk if a bicyclist dismounts?

Q: I frequently encounter a traffic situation while riding my bicycle. I ride with traffic and adhere to the same rules as when I’m behind the wheel of my own vehicle. When I come to a stop sign on my bike and the crossing traffic does not have the same, many drivers will stop and attempt to wave me across. I will wave the polite crossing driver to move along.  My thought is I’m riding in a lane of traffic and want to be treated the same as other traffic. If I wanted to be treated as a pedestrian, I would dismount my bike and cross at the crosswalk.  I feel it’s best to proceed through an intersection when crossing traffic is sufficiently spaced so I can make it across just as I would in an automobile. Accepting a wave by a driver doesn’t necessarily assure my safe crossing as crossing traffic from the other direction may or may not stop. Do you think drivers should only stop if a bicyclist dismounts and/or enters the crosswalk? Or am I misinterpreting their stopping as politeness when in fact they are legally required to stop?

A: If the bicyclist is off their bicycle at an intersection and walks across, they have all the rights at the intersection as a pedestrian would.  Motorists must stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection, even those without crosswalks or stoplights. Motorists should stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop. Those riding a bicycle must obey all traffic-control signs and signals, just as motorists. Bicycle-vehicle collisions are due to a variety of behaviors by the rider, such as disregarding a traffic sign or signal, inattention and distraction.

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

 

Where can ATVs be operated?

Q: Can you talk about what is legal when it comes to ATV operation and where they can be operated?

A: When it comes to all-terrain vehicles’ laws and regulations, it all depends on what type of ATV you have and where it will be operated. There are two classes of ATVs. This changed on July 1, 2015.

Class 1 is an ATV with a total width of 50 inches or less.

Class 2 is an ATV with a total width that is greater than 50 inches but not more than 65 inches wide.

A valid driver’s license is required to operate an ATV on a road right-of-way, except when on a designated trail that includes a road right-of-way. A person with a valid driver’s license may operate an ATV:

  • Registered for private use and being used for agricultural purposes on a public right-of-way of a trunk, county, state aid or county highway if the ATV is on the extreme right side of the road. A left turn may be made if it’s safe to do so.
  • On the far right-hand side of a township road unless prohibited by local regulations. If traveling at a slower speed than other traffic on the township road, the ATV should be driven as close as practical to the right-hand edge of the road.
  • On a bridge, a roadway shoulder or the inside bank of a public road right-of-way if necessary to avoid obstructions to travel or environmentally sensitive areas. You must remain in the farthest right-hand lane, enter the roadway within 100 feet of the bridge, obstacle or area and make the crossing without delay.

You may operate a Class 2 ATV on private land; frozen lake surfaces; state-forest roads; and, with a valid driver’s license, 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; on designated Class 2 trails and use areas and in road right-of-way of a trunk, county state-aid, or county highway but only to access businesses or make trail connections. A left turn may be made if it’s safe to do so.

Class 2 ATVs may be operated on the shoulder or extreme right side of county or township roads and city streets if not prohibited by the road authority or other local laws. Class 2 ATVs may not be operated on the shoulder of a state trunk highway. A Class 1 (side/side) ATV must have a steering wheel, seat belts and a roll-over protective structure to be operated like a Class 2 on roadways.

You may not ride:

  • Crossing a bridge that is part of the traveled lanes of an interstate highway.
  • An ATV on controlled access/freeway portions of state highways.
  • Exceeding 10 mph on the frozen surface of public waters within 100 feet of another person who is not on an ATV (including people who are fishing) or within 100 feet of a fish house or other shelter.
  • On the median of a four-lane highway.
  • Within the right-of-way of any interstate highway or freeway.
  • On the right-of-way between opposing lanes of traffic.
  • On grant-in-aid snowmobile trails.
  • On designated non-motorized trails. (Others listed on MNDNR website).

Youth aged 12-15 can now operate an ATV on a roadway if they possess a valid ATV safety certificate and are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who is on a separate ATV. All other riding requirements apply.

Please use good judgment and obey all the laws when operating an ATV. Conservation officers, deputy sheriffs, police officers and state troopers all enforce off-highway vehicle rules. You must stop when signaled by a law-enforcement officer.

For additional information go to mndnr.gov/OHV.

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

What is Legionville School Patrol Camp?

Q: My son is involved in school patrol at his school and I would like to know more about Legionville School Patrol Camp.

A: There is a lot of information about Legionville School Patrol Training Camp. The camp is where school-patrol students are taught the fundamentals of school patrol, school-bus safety, bicycle and pedestrian safety. It’s located just north of Brainerd and it’s operated by the American Legion, using State Patrol Troopers as instructors. I will be one of the instructors again this year.

Students who will be 10 years old before Sept. 1 and not older than 13 years will be accepted. Exceptions to this restriction can be made but must be cleared in advance through the American Legion. Legionville is currently taking applications.

Legionville will be celebrating 78 years of instruction. It actually started 80 years ago in 1936 but because of World War II, class was canceled in 1942 and 1943. The “old familiar barn” is gone and a new one has been built.

School-patrol training itself was started (informally) back in 1920, when Sister Carmella asked the older boys to help the younger children cross the streets from school in St. Paul.

Earle Brown (former Minnesota Governor and former Minnesota “Highway Patrol” Chief), formalized the program and got the Highway Patrol (now called “Minnesota State Patrol” since about 1974) involved with the instruction at the Earle Brown Farm in the Twin Cities. Based on records from American Legion personnel, the training locations also included the Crow Wing County Fairgrounds, Camp Ripley and the present Legionville location north of Brainerd (southwest of Merrifield).

Besides school-patrol and school-bus-patrol training by troopers, other instructors help complete the week with swimming, canoeing, first- aid training and many other activities and games. The camp is a very active place. Parents can pay for their kids to go, even though there are also some limited numbers of scholarships available each year through the local schools, State Patrol Troopers Association, local American Legion posts and many other venues. The registration fee is $275 per student.

This year, weekly sessions run from the middle of June until the middle of August. For registration and camp information, go to http://www.legionville.org/.

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

Legionville 1 Legionville 2 Legionville 3

Am I required to register a towable concrete mixer in the state of Minnesota?

Q: I am trying to figure out if it’s required to register a towable concrete mixer in the state of Minnesota. Please see the attached picture.

A: This concrete mixer would qualify as special mobile equipment and would not be registered with the state. It does, however, need to be equipped with all required lights and reflectors along with the proper hitch and safety chains if it’s going to be towed on the highway.

As a reminder, always make sure your tow is properly secured. Unsecured loads have caused injuries and deaths in recent years, leading to lives lost and families torn apart. If a load you are towing becomes loose and causes a crash, you could be held accountable.

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

ConcreteMixer

Should it be reported if a cell phone played a part in a mishap?

Q: When there is a vehicle mishap, it’s reported to the public that alcohol did or did not play a part. What about a cell phone? Also, there is never any mention that drugs did or did not play a part in the mishap. With the known widespread availability/use of drugs, shouldn’t this also be a determination in a vehicle mishap?

A: Good question. All possible factors that contribute to a crash are investigated but not all pieces of the investigation are initially public. Per public and private data laws, law enforcement is required to provide public data to the public and media as requested.

Some of the public data information law enforcement is required to report if requested includes:

  • Action time, date and place of the incident.
  • Brief factual reconstruction of events.
  • Victims and casualties, unless protected by law.
  • Witnesses, unless protected by law.
  • Resistance encountered.
  • Pursuit.
  • Weapons used by agency or other individual.
  • Charges, arrest or search warrant.
  • Identities of all law-enforcement agencies involved.
  • Identities of individual officers taking action, unless protected by law.
  • Date, time and legal basis for release from custody.
  • Case number.
  • Healthcare facilities victims taken to.
  • Seat belts worn.
  • Blood alcohol concentration, if known at the time of the request.

Driving under the influence and distracted driving are major contributing factors in fatal and serious injury crashes in Minnesota. Driving under the influence is not only an alcohol-related crime; it also includes illegal and abused prescription drugs, maybe taken in combination with alcohol.

If controlled substance impairment is suspected, a blood or urine test will be taken by search warrant by the officer. That sample is sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis that will show if drugs/alcohol were in the driver’s system and the amount at the time of the incident. The analysis can take up to six weeks. As a result, we cannot report drug impairment, apart from suspicion, until the results are returned from the lab.

Alleged distracted driving crashes take time, especially when processing data to see how a cell phone may have played a part in the crash. A serious and fatal crash investigation will take a number of weeks to months to complete. All possible contributing factors will be examined to determine why the crash occurred.

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

What are the requirements for RV triple towing in Minnesota?

Q: What are the requirements for RV triple towing in Minnesota?

A: With warmer weather around the corner, we are sure to see more RVs and boat trailers on the roads being towed.

A recreational vehicle combination may be operated without an over-length type permit if:

(1) the combination does not consist of more than three vehicles, and the towing rating of the full-size pickup truck or recreational truck-tractor is equal to or greater than the total weight of all vehicles being towed;

(2) the combination does not exceed 70 feet in length;

(3) the operator of the combination is at least 18 years of age;

(4) the trailer is only carrying watercraft, motorcycles, motorized bicycles, off-highway motorcycles, snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorized golf carts or equestrian equipment or supplies, and meets all requirements of law;

(5) the vehicles in the combination are connected to the full-size pickup truck or recreational truck-tractor and each other in conformity with the trailer hitch laws; and

(6) the combination is not operated within the seven-county metropolitan area during the hours of 6-9 a.m. and 4-7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The recreational vehicle driver does not need a special driver’s license, but please keep in mind the statutory definition of a “Recreational vehicle combination” found in Minnesota State Statute 169.011 Subdivision 62 (a). This law says a “Recreational vehicle combination” means a combination of vehicles consisting of a full-size pickup truck or a recreational truck-tractor attached by means of a kingpin and fifth-wheel coupling to a middle vehicle which has hitched to it a trailer. And (b) For purposes of this subdivision, a “kingpin and fifth-wheel coupling” is a coupling between a middle vehicle and a towing full-size pickup truck or a recreational truck-tractor. Please note a simple ball hitch for the first trailer does not meet the legal requirements.

Please make sure all trailers are properly secured, safety chains are attached and lights are properly working. When towing, reduce your speeds and increase your following distance.

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

Can I still drive if I broke my foot?

Q: I recently broke my foot and have it in a cast. Am I still allowed to drive? Does it matter which foot it is?

A: There are not any blanket restrictions, but a physician may restrict a patient “for a temporary condition” on a case-by-case basis. A physician who diagnoses a physical or mental condition that will significantly impair the person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle may voluntarily report the person’s name and other relevant information to the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety.

Every driver is responsible for maintaining control of their vehicle at all times and must use due care in operating a vehicle.

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

Is it illegal for anyone under 18 to use a ‘hands-free’ device?

Q: With all this attention to distracted driving recently, I know a person can “talk” on a cell phone while driving if they are 18 years old or older. I understand it’s illegal for anyone under that age to be “on a cell phone.” Does that apply to a “hands-free” device such as a “bluetooth”?

A: Anyone under 18 years of age may NOT operate a vehicle while using a cell phone, whether handheld or hands free, when the vehicle is in motion. A driver with a provisional license may use a cell phone to call 911 in case of an emergency.

A “hands-free” device while a vehicle is in motion is also illegal for someone under 18. Vehicles in motion also apply to someone stopped at a stop sign, a stop light or stopped in traffic in general. The exception of “obtaining emergency assistance” is quite limited in my professional opinion. Calling “911” would be a good example. Calling Mom and Dad to let them know you are late should be done before you put the vehicle in motion.

Minnesota is involved in a serious effort to reduce the fatalities and serious injury crashes on our roadways. It involves a partnership with a mission of “Toward Zero Deaths.”

I believe distracted driving is the next dangerous epidemic plaguing our roadways and the statistics show that. Distracted driving contributes to one in four crashes in Minnesota. Ask yourself what the most important text message you ever sent or received was. Now ask yourself if that text is worth your life or another life on the road.

Help us put an end to distracted driving. Before you get in the car, put away the phone, adjust your radio and enter your location into your GPS. If you’re a passenger, speak up if someone drives distractedly.

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

 

Is there registration requirements if one has a medical exception for window tinting?

Q: If a person has a medical exception to a specified window tint level (per medical prescription by medical provider), do you have to register that exception/prescription with the state? Or register the car that has the applied tint?

A: It is not necessary to notify the Department of Public Safety Driver Vehicle Services in Minnesota. DVS doesn’t place window tint/medical restriction on the driver’s license or on the vehicle’s registration. Drivers will need to have a prescription or proof from their doctor regarding the medical need to have tinted windows below the 50-percent light transmittance plus or minus 3 percent.

The proper document will need to be in the vehicle to show law enforcement upon request. The document will need to specifically state the minimum percentage that light transmittance may be reduced to satisfy the prescription or medical needs of the patient; and the prescription or statement contains an expiration date, which must be no more than two years after the date the prescription or statement was issued.

If the window tint is below the state minimum of 50-percent light transmittance, that vehicle may be stopped by law enforcement, as the officer will not be aware of the medical exemption.

In Minnesota, you can have your windows tinted to a light transmittance of 50 percent, but not less. Light transmittance is the amount of light that is required to pass through both the window and the tint film. Before any tint material is applied to your windows, a vehicle comes from the factory with tint already inside the glass material. No window comes from the factory at 100 percent light transmittance. My experience has been most vehicles are already at 75 percent before any modifications.

  • No vehicle can have ANY tint to the front windshield.
  • Passenger cars are limited to 50 percent on all side and rear windows.
  • Pickups, vans, and SUVs are limited to 50 percent on the front side windows.
  • Pickups, vans, and SUVs are not limited on the rear side and rear windows. (Can be less than 50 percent behind the front seat).
  • Squad cars, limousines and vehicles used to transport human remains by a funeral establishment are not limited on the side and rear windows.

Most troopers have window-tint meters in their patrol cars and will test the windows for the legal percent of light transmittance if they look to be below the statutory limit. If they are found below the legal limit, the driver may be issued a citation.

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

 

Is a kayak extender legal in Minnesota?

Q: I just purchased a kayak and had it delivered to my house. I did not think ahead about the length of it for transporting it. I was wondering if a kayak extender is legal in Minnesota?

A: A kayak extender could be legal if you meet the following requirements. Here is some information on extended or projecting loads according to Minnesota State Statutes (M.S.S.)

M.S.S. 169.52 Rear: “When the load upon any vehicle extends to the rear four feet or more beyond the bed or body of such vehicle there shall be displayed at the extreme rear end of the load, at the times when lighted lamps on vehicles are required in this chapter (night or reduced visibility), a red light or lantern plainly visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the sides and rear. The light or lantern required under this section shall be in addition to the rear light required upon every vehicle. At any time when no lights are required there shall be displayed at the extreme rear end of such load a red, yellow or orange flag or cloth not less than 16 inches square.”

M.S.S. 169.81 Front: “The load upon any vehicle operated alone, or the load upon the front vehicle of a combination of vehicles, shall not extend more than three feet beyond the front wheels of such vehicle or the front bumper of such vehicle if it is equipped with such a bumper.”

M.S.S. 169.80 Sides: “No passenger-type vehicle shall be operated on any highway with any load carried thereon extending beyond the line of the fenders on the left side of such vehicle nor extending more than six inches beyond the line of the fenders on the right side thereof.”

It is extremely important to properly secure a load at all times. Unsecured loads are very dangerous and in the past have caused injuries or even deaths to motorists. If it becomes detached for any reason, the driver is responsible.

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

 

When did front doors on Minnesota State Patrol cars become white?

Q: I’ve noticed the Minnesota State Patrol squad cars have a white front car door. I recall some years back that they did not. But I also recall from my childhood they had white doors then also. Could you help me remember when these changes occurred? Thanks!

A: The Minnesota State Patrol has been in existence since 1929. Our maroon squad cars featured a white door paint scheme from 1960-1991. Changes in body styles, a need for greater visibility and advances in vinyl graphics led to improvements being made on State Patrol squads. The goal was to develop a graphics package that would not only continue a strong link between tradition and the future, but also provide the Trooper safety through rapid identification and the introduction to side reflectivity. The design had to be an aesthetically strong complement to the shape and design anticipated for vehicles during the course of the next decade, cost effective and in compliance with Minnesota Statutes regarding color and markings of police vehicles.

In 2008, the Minnesota State Patrol unveiled its retro graphics design. The throwback design recalled the white door paint scheme of years gone by.

For more information, please go to https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp/about/Pages/State-Patrol-Squad-Cars.aspx.

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

1991 Ford Crown Vic

1991 Ford Crown Vic

2013 Ford2

2013 Ford 2

1972 Plym Fury I

1972 Plymouth Fury I

What documents are needed by a commercial vehicle driver when pulled over by a trooper?

Q: If driving a commercial vehicle and stopped, what documents are needed to present to the Trooper. Also what do they look for if a truck is weighed?

A: I will list what is covered in a “level 1” inspection, done along with weight enforcement.

North American Standard Inspection: An inspection that includes examination of driver’s license; medical examiner’s certificate and Skill Performance Evaluation Certificate (if applicable); alcohol and drugs; driver’s record of duty status as required; hours of service; seat belt; vehicle inspection report(s) (if applicable); brake systems; coupling devices; exhaust systems; frames; fuel systems; lighting devices (headlamps, tail lamps, stop lamps, turn signals and lamps/flags on projecting loads); securement of cargo; steering mechanisms; suspensions; tires; van and open-top trailer bodies; wheels, rims and hubs; windshield wipers; emergency exits and/or electrical cables and systems in engine and battery compartments (buses), and hazardous material/dangerous goods requirements as applicable. HM/DG required inspection items will be inspected by certified HM/DG inspectors.

There are “Level 2” inspections, which are walk-around inspections, and “Level 3” inspections, which are paperwork only. All of which include the driver’s portion and registration on vehicles.

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

 

Is it illegal to leave your unattended car running with the keys in the ignition?

Q: Is it illegal to leave your unattended car running with the keys in the ignition?

A: There are some cities that have local ordinances against it, but there is no state statute which prohibits it. Check your local ordinances in reference to this rule.

Car prowls and vehicle thefts are crimes of opportunity. There are many vehicle thefts where the vehicle was left unattended; the keys were left inside, doors unlocked, and the engine running. This makes it very easy for auto thieves to take your car. Get into the habit of locking your vehicle each time you are going to leave it unattended and take the keys with you.

Some good rules of thumb are:

• Never leave your car running unattended.

• Never leave your keys in the vehicle.

• Always lock your vehicle.

• Look at purchasing a remote car starter as most of them have a built-in security feature while your vehicle is running to prevent the vehicle from being driven.

• Don’t leave valuables in plain sight. Place valuable items in the trunk if you can’t take them with you.

By following the above tips, you can reduce your chances of having your vehicle and/or your property inside it stolen.

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

Is it legal to pick-up roadkill, and what permits would be needed?

Q: I am an art major currently in college. For my senior art thesis I would like to use bones as a canvas, however I am unsure how to obtain the quantity of bones I need. I am interested in obtaining a permit to pick up roadkill, for art, not food or taxidermy during this next year. How would I go about this process?

A: The Minnesota State Patrol does issue permits for roadkill animals generally right at the time of the crash or soon after. Any Minnesota resident may claim a road-killed animal by contacting a law-enforcement officer. An authorization permit can be issued, allowing the individual to lawfully possess the animal. For your specific request, I would advise you to contact the Department of Natural Resources. You can contact the conservation officer in the area you are closest to or where you’d want to pick up the roadkill. They should be able to provide more information on the permits and this process. The following link will let you find officers statewide: www.dnr.state.mn.us/officerpatrolareas/index.html.

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

 

Is it legal to use fog lights when it’s not foggy out?

Q: I would like to know if it’s legal to have your fog lights on with your headlights at night when it’s not foggy out. I have noticed a lot of vehicles with all four lights on while driving at night. These extra two lights do make it much more difficult to see when traffic is coming at you at night.

A: Yes it is legal if the lights are within the proper height and aimed within the legal range. I recommend using fog lights only in low-visibility settings, as some of them can be hard on the other drivers’ eyes.

Below is the Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) that covers fog lights.

M.S.S. 169.56 AUXILIARY LIGHTS. Subd. 2. Fog light. Any motor vehicle may be equipped with not to exceed two fog lamps mounted on the front at a height not less than 12 inches nor more than 30 inches above the level surface upon which the vehicle stands. High-beams simply light up the fog and can make it difficult to see. Fog lights light up the road below the fog. The fog light reflectors are designed to spread the beam wider for a shorter distance.

Make sure all of your markers, directional, parking lights and low/high-beam lights are working. Remember to turn on your headlights in the rain. Use the fog lights only when you have very low visibility, and don’t forget to turn them off when the fog has lifted. Even though it may be legal, it can make visibility for other drivers difficult.

 

What is the law about disability parking tags hanging from a rear-view mirror?

Q: What is the law about a disability parking certificate/tag that hangs from your rear-view mirror? The instruction sheet that’s mailed out by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety states, “Driving with the hang tag on your mirror could result in a ticket for obstructed view.” When attempting to look out the windshield with the tag on the rearview mirror, I was amazed at how much visual space is obscured. I believe it’s a real safety concern when people drive with the tag on the rearview mirror.

A: You are correct, state statute 169.71 prohibits any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield, other than: sun visors, rearview mirrors, global positioning systems or navigation systems when mounted or located near the bottom-most portion of the windshield; and electronic toll-collection devices. This law does not apply to law-enforcement vehicles and other authorized emergency vehicles.

Having an object either attached to the windshield or hanging from the rear-view mirror, that obstructs the driver’s view, can result in a dangerous situation. The driver might not be able to see another vehicle, animal, pedestrian or bicyclist because of an object blocking their view.

For those with a disability parking tag, keep your tag in a secured location when driving, and only put the tag up when you need to park. When you need to drive, take the tag down. This should become as much of a habit as putting your seatbelt on. Those other items people like to hang from the mirror can also cause an obstruction (air fresheners, fuzzy dice and more).

Law enforcement can and will conduct traffic stops when seeing an object that is blocking the driver’s view. A citation or warning will be issued to the driver. With more than 400 fatalities on Minnesota roads in 2015, the Department of Public Safety/Minnesota State Patrol is committed to making our roads safer through enforcement and education.

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

 

Is there anything on a driver’s license that tells a merchant/business whether someone has a DUI?

Q: Is there anything on a driver’s license that tells a merchant/business whether someone has a DUI or are on probation for a drinking violation?

A: If a person has three or more impaired driving incidents within 10 years, or four or more on their record, there is a notation placed on the back of their driver’s license (if they are eligible for reinstatement). It will generally state, “Restrictions: Any Use of Alcohol or Drugs Invalidates License.” (See attached sample.)

The notation of a restriction is placed on the license as a tool for law enforcement if the license holder is stopped. There is nothing in the law that restricts that person from entering an establishment that serves alcohol, but establishments can set their own policies.

With the Super Bowl weekend approaching I’d like to offer a reminder to make smart choices when it comes to celebrating. In 2010-14, there were 945 arrests made for DUI in Minnesota over the Super Bowl weekend. During that same time there were 24 people killed on Minnesota highways; more than 20 percent of those were alcohol related. Always have a plan for a sober ride before you party. Crash on a friend’s couch, so you don’t crash on the road.

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

 

What are the legal ramifications if someone is stopped for drinking with a child in a vehicle?

Q: What are the legal ramifications if someone is stopped for drinking with a child in a vehicle?

A: If a driver is arrested for “driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs” and has a child in the vehicle it would enhance the violation. Child endangerment is less than 16 years of age and greater than 36 months difference from offender.

  • First offense DWI under a 0.16: 90 days in jail and/or $1,000 fine.
  • First offense DWI under a 0.16 with a child: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine.
  • First offense DWI over a 0.16: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine.
  • First offense DWI over a 0.16 with a child: 1 year in jail and/or $3,000 fine and vehicle forfeiture.

Minnesota’s enhanced DWI enforcement and education efforts have been factors in the continued reduction of alcohol-related deaths. Still, impaired driving remains a serious threat. In the past five years (2010-14), there were 47 drunk-driving-related deaths in Minnesota, and 88 people were killed in drunk-driving-related crashes in 2014 alone. In addition, each year 28,000 people are arrested in Minnesota for DWI with one in seven Minnesota drivers having a DWI on their record.

DWI applies to all vehicles including the following: cars, trucks, boats, motorcycles, snowmobiles, ATVs, riding lawn mowers and golf carts.

Subsequent DWI/DUI and impaired-driving offenses will result in longer potential jail time, higher fines, longer driver’s-license suspensions, and harsher penalties.

For a complete list of the criminal and administrative penalties you may face for subsequent DWIs, visit the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website: https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/laws/Pages/impaired-driving.aspx

Help prevent impaired driving by doing the following: plan for a safe ride – designate a sober driver, use a cab/public transportation or stay at the location of the celebration; offer to be a designated driver, or be available to pick up a loved one anytime, anywhere; buckle up – the best defense against a drunk driver; and report drunk driving – call 911 when witnessing impaired driving behavior. Be prepared to provide location, license plate number and observed dangerous behavior.

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

 

What is the proper way to stop at a stop sign?

Q: My husband and I are arguing about the proper way to stop at a stop sign. He insists if you are 20 feet away from the sign and stop, because a car in front of you may have stopped and then pulled half way out into the intersection and stopped again, your stop 20 feet back constitutes a legal stop and you do not need to stop again before proceeding into the intersection. Can you put it in writing for me? Or better yet, cite the statute? I’ve bounced around the statute site all evening and not found anything that specifically addresses this. Thanks.

A: Minnesota State Statute 169.30 states: “Every driver of a vehicle shall stop at a stop sign or at a clearly marked stop line before entering the intersection, except when directed to proceed by a police officer or traffic-control signal.”

A stop sign requires you come to a complete stop. At a stop sign with a marked stop line, you must stop before the line. At a stop sign with a pedestrian crosswalk you must stop before entering the crosswalk. When you have stopped, yield the right-of-way to pedestrians, bicyclists and traffic before proceeding. If your view of the intersection is obstructed, prepare to stop again for traffic or pedestrians in your path.

If the vehicle in front of you comes to a stop in the improper place, you are still required to come to a stop in the proper position and only proceed when it is safe, and when you have the right of way.

You must also come to a complete stop in the following situations:

  • Before entering a road from an alley, a private driveway, a parking lot or a parking ramp. Always stop before crossing an adjoining sidewalk or crosswalk.
  • At an intersection or crosswalk with a traffic signal displaying a red light. Wait until the signal changes to green and your path is clear before proceeding.
  • At a flashing red traffic light. Treat this as you would a stop sign.
  • At a freeway ramp meter, when the light is red.
  • At a railroad crossing with a stop sign. At railroad crossings without a stop sign, proceed with caution before crossing, making sure there is not a train approaching.
  • When a flag person or traffic device directs you to stop.
  • At a bridge that has been raised to open a path for boats to pass beneath it.

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

 

What are the requirements for driving using a foreign driver’s license?

Q: I have a former foreign exchange student coming to visit us here in Minnesota. He wanted to know what the requirements are for driving in our state and using his foreign driver’s license.

A: This is a good question and can depend on a few things.

Foreign tourists

Foreign motorists from any of the countries who are party to the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic (Geneva, 1949) and the Convention on the Regulation of Inter-American Motor Vehicle Traffic (Washington DC, 1943) who visit the United States as tourists can drive legally using their valid native country’s driver’s license for a period to not exceed one year from the date of arrival. Tourists from countries who are party to these conventions can also legally drive their own private cars bearing valid license plates issued in their native country for a period not to exceed one year from their date of arrival. Foreign tourists who are from those countries not part of the United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, must obtain a driver’s license and license plates from a state upon arrival in the United States.

Foreign students

Foreign students attending school in the United States, who are at least 16 years of age, can drive with their home country’s valid license for up to one year. After one year, they must meet the same licensing requirements as a Minnesota resident.

International driving permit

Visitors may carry an International Driving Permit obtained by their home country, as authorized by the conventions. The IDP serves as a translation to be used in conjunction with the visitor’s valid driver’s license. An IDP is not a license to drive.

Residence or employment established

If an individual from another country comes to Minnesota and establishes residence or becomes employed, they are no longer considered a tourist or a student. They are then required to obtain a Minnesota driver’s license within 60 days of establishing their residency.

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

 

Can anyone mount a flashing warning light on a vehicle that performs snow-plowing duties?

Q: I read your response in the paper about flashing lights on funeral vehicles, and I have a related question. We live in the country, and the end of our driveway is a U.S. Highway. Can I mount a flashing warning light of some kind on my pickup that I use to plow snow? I need to plow well beyond at the end of our driveway, as the plows can make quite a ridge of snow when they go by, and a warning light would get other drivers’ attention when I am plowing in the dark. Thank you.

A: Under Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.64, “Any service vehicle may be equipped with a flashing amber lamp of a type approved by the commissioner of public safety.”

“A service vehicle shall not display the lighted lamp when traveling upon the highway or at any other time except at the scene of a disabled vehicle or while engaged in snow removal or road maintenance.”

I would also remind you other traffic on the main roadway will have the right of way, so be sure to pay attention and use due care.

Also, according to M.S.S. 160.2715, “it shall be unlawful to obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice thereon.” This prohibits the plowing, blowing, shoveling or otherwise placing of snow onto public roads. This includes the ditch and right-of-way area along the roads.

Violations are considered misdemeanors, but civil penalties also apply if the placement of snow creates a hazard, such as a slippery area, frozen rut or bump, that contributes to a motor vehicle or pedestrian crash. The civil liability can extend to both the property owner and the person who placed the snow.

If a person observes something appearing to be a hazard, I would encourage them to report it as quickly as possible to the proper law-enforcement agency or highway department.

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

 

If it is illegal to flash high beams at an oncoming vehicle, what is the ‘victim’ driver supposed to do in this situation?

Q: At a recent gathering, a friend related a story to me that really surprised me. He was traveling along a local road at night when a car came toward him with his high beams on. My friend flashed his high beams to ask him to switch to lows, but the car ignored him. So, my friend flashed them again, and again the car ignored him. After he passed, the car that was behind the “offender” made a U-turn and turned his flashers on. It was a patrolman. He did not give my friend a ticket, but said it was illegal in Minnesota to flash your high beams at oncoming cars. Can that possibly be right? If so, what are we supposed to do in that situation as some high beams, especially on some trucks, can be very blinding?

A: A person is not allowed to “flash” their headlights at another vehicle, even if that vehicle has its high beams on. When meeting a vehicle in Minnesota, dim your headlights to low beams at 1,000 feet (even on a divided roadway.) Also use your low beams when you’re following another vehicle at 200 feet or less.

If an approaching vehicle is using its high beams, don’t look directly into the oncoming headlights – look toward the right of your lane (the white line near the shoulder) as a reference. Watch the oncoming vehicle out of the corner of your eye. Do not try retaliating against the other driver by keeping your high beams on or by flashing them. If you do, both of you may be blinded, and it could make a bad situation worse. For glare caused by headlights from behind you, use a “day-night” mirror or re-adjust your regular mirror.

 

Author: jon_y51o5q81

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