Ask a trooper 2017

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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,

What is the curfew for driving with a farmers’ permit?

Q: If you are 15 years old and have a farm permit to drive a farm truck, how late at night can you drive?

A: A 15-year-old may qualify for a restricted-farm-work license after completing a driver-education course and passing a road test. A restricted-farm-work license allows a young person to drive alone only to perform farm work for his or her parent during daylight hours, within 20 miles of the farmhouse and in cities with populations of less than 100,000. The applicant is not required to wait six months before taking the road test for this license. The parent must fill out an affidavit, available at all driver-license-examination stations, and present a property-tax statement and/or rental agreement.

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

When does the Minnesota State Patrol notify the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on car crashes?

Q: When does the National Transportation Safety Board get involved with car crashes?

A: The Minnesota State Patrol notifies the NTSB on the following types of crashes.

• School bus injuries or death to student passengers.

• Public or charter bus crashes resulting in death or injury to occupants.

• Railway-crossing crashes resulting in two or more deaths, or involving a Commercial Motor Vehicle.

• Heavy truck crashes resulting in two or more deaths.

• Crashes resulting in five or more deaths.

The NTSB will then determine if they are going to send a team to investigate.  NTSB investigators employ procedures similar to those utilized by law enforcement. NTSB safety investigations, while concurrent, are also independent of law enforcement investigations.

Those involved in injury and fatal crashes generally include (when applicable); Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, Medical Examiner/Coroner, State and Federal Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) along with other emergency services agencies. Depending on the type of unit(s) involved in the crash, other agencies may also be involved:

Aviation Accidents

• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

Rail/Transit Accidents

• Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

• Federal Transit Administration (FTA)

Marine Accidents

• United States Coast Guard

• State or local waterway or harbor police

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Accidents

• Pipeline and Hazards Materials Safety Agency (PHMSA)

• State pipeline regulator

• Minnesota Duty Officer

The NTSB Transportation Disaster Assistance Division has developed a brochure for law enforcement and public safety personnel explaining how to support the NTSB during the on-scene phase of an aviation accident investigation.

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

What is the fine amount for going though a school bus stop-arm?

Q: I read the fine for going through a school bus stop-arm will increase in Minnesota. Can you talk about the fine amount and school-bus safety?

A: As of Aug. 1, 2017, the fine has increased from $300 to $500 and the violation would remain a misdemeanor.

The Department of Public Safety reported 3,659 bus drivers across the state reported 703 stop-arm violations in just one day during the annual School Bus Stop-Arm Survey held earlier this year. In the past six years, law enforcement across the state wrote nearly 9,000 stop-arm citations.

Law enforcement takes school bus stop-arm and school patrol crossing-guard flag violations very seriously. Law enforcement has up to four hours after an incident to respond to a violation, investigate and issue a citation, even though it was not committed in our presence.

School bus safety tips for motorists:

• Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop-arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

Red flashing lights on buses indicate students are either entering or exiting the bus.

• Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists will not find themselves behind a bus and as a result, potentially putting children at risk.

• Watch for school-crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones.

• Watch and stop for pedestrians — the law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks (all street corners) — every corner is a crosswalk.

Parents should discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus:

• When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder (side of the road).

• Before crossing the street wait until the driver’s face can be seen.

• Wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross.

• Look left-right-left when coming to the edge of the bus to make sure traffic is stopped. Keep watching traffic when crossing.

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

What does ‘L’Etoile du Nord’ mean on the squad car door?

Q: What do those words on the door of your squad car “L’Etoile du Nord” mean?

A: Our squad car door badge contains the Seal of Minnesota which has the French phrase “L’Etoile du Nord” meaning “The Star of the North.”  It became our state motto when it was chosen by our first Governor, Henry Hastings Sibley, and was adopted in 1861, three years after Minnesota was admitted to the union. The State Seal is also included on our badge, hat badge, shoulder patches and tie tac.

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

Can motorists drive in a bike lane?

Q: Can you drive in a bike lane? For instance, use it for a right-turn lane?

 A: No, motorists are not allowed to drive in the bike lanes. The solid white lines on any road mean do not cross. There are designated areas where the solid white line is converted to dashed lines and this is where motor vehicles are allowed to enter a bike lane to make a turn. Before crossing a bicycle lane, make sure it’s safe to do so. Yield the right-of-way to approaching bicyclists. When the bicycle lane is clear, signal your intention to turn and then move into the bicycle lane before making the turn.

Bicycles are legal vehicles on Minnesota roads and they share the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles.

Bicycle lanes are designed to separate bicycle traffic from normal vehicle traffic. It’s illegal to drive in these lanes except to park, when permitted, to enter or leave the road or to prepare for a turn.

Each year in Minnesota, approximately 35 pedestrians and seven bicyclists are killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles.

• As a group, pedestrians and bicyclists comprise nearly 11 percent of all traffic fatalities each year — 72 percent of these fatal crashes occur in urban areas.

• 35 percent of pedestrians and 27 percent of bicyclists killed had consumed alcohol.

• 16 percent of pedestrians killed were not crossing properly.

The above information is using the five-year average from 2011-15.

Bicyclists and motorists are equally responsible for bicycle safety. The number-one factor contributing to bicycle-vehicle collisions is failure to yield the right-of-way — by bicyclists and drivers alike.

About half of all bicycle-vehicle collisions are due to a variety of bicyclist behaviors, such as disregarding a traffic sign or signal. The other half are caused by vehicle driver behaviors, such as inattention and distraction.

Rules of the Road and Safety Tips

• Bicyclists may ride on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted.

• Bicyclists should ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.

• Motorists must at all times maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist.

• Bicyclists must obey all traffic control signs and signals, just as motorists.

• Bicyclists must signal their turns and should ride in a predictable manner.

• Bicyclists must use a headlight and rear reflectors when it’s dark. To increase visibility, add a rear flashing light.

• Drivers must drive at safe speeds and be attentive — look for bicyclists, check blind spots.

• Drivers should use caution and look twice for riders when turning.

• Drivers should use caution when opening door upon parking on side of road.

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

What is the law in regards to age for a child to ride in a sidecar of a motorcycle?

Q: What is the law in regards to age for a child to ride in a sidecar of a motorcycle? Thanks.

A: There is nothing in statute that regulates age, but helmet and eye protection laws do apply for sidecar passengers. If the sidecar has a seat belt, then the applicable belt laws also apply for a child passenger (car seats, booster seats or other).

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

How can I become a state patrolman?

Q: I am interested in becoming a Minnesota State Trooper. Can you give me more information on joining the state patrol?

A: The Minnesota State Patrol provides for an exciting and meaningful career that goes beyond the highway. Nearly 600 state troopers provide assistance, education and enforcement to the people of Minnesota, and provide for safe, efficient movement of traffic on our state’s roadways.

Fields of expertise are also available to troopers such as:

• Crash Reconstruction.

• Flight Section.

• Commercial Vehicle Inspection.

• Special Response Team.

• K-9 Handlers.

More information can be found on our website including benefits and salary, training opportunities, applicant information, disqualifiers, youth opportunities and more. Please go to

The 59th Minnesota State Patrol Training Academy begins Jan. 15, 2018. The state patrol will start accepting applications on May 1. Check out our information online and contact the state patrol recruiter at or the Training and Development Section at 651-757-1900.

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

Can a person drive a motorized vehicle barefoot?

Q: Can a person drive a semi barefoot?

A: Yes, a person can drive a passenger vehicle or a commercial motor vehicle barefoot. I am asked this question fairly often. I have seen some footwear that could actually make it difficult for drivers to safely operate a vehicle gas/brake/clutch pedal. When operating a motorcycle or moped, prudent footwear would be the smartest and safest option.

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

Do I need fenders on both the rear and front of my vehicle? 

Q: I have a 1929 Ford “Model A” sedan. My question is, I have fenders on the rear of the car but not on the front and I can’t find any laws on it. Any help in the law or statute of this would help and I do have collector plates on it if that makes a difference.

A: Every vehicle is required to have fenders. The law does not specify only rear fenders, but the fenders must protect against things being thrown up and to the rear.

There are exceptions to the law. When it comes to any pioneer, classic, collector vehicle, collector military vehicle or street rod, it shall have all equipment, in operating condition, which was specifically required by law as a condition for its first sale after manufacture.

This means if a vehicle was not originally required to be manufactured with specific equipment, you do not need to add that equipment, unless another statute requires it.  A turn signal would be an example.  If you have a 1940 vehicle with no signals, you do not need to add them. However, if you have a 1950 vehicle that has no turn signals, you would have to add them because all new vehicles sold after July 1, 1949, required signals.

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

Can you explain construction zone fees and merging into construction zones in Minnesota?

Q: I was told the speeding fine in a construction zone had gone up recently. Could you also explain the Zipper Merge for merging into construction zones in Minnesota?

A: With a recent area work-zone crash that left two people injured, this is a great time to talk about work-zone safety.

During the spring and summer months, construction season is in full swing in Minnesota and motorists risk their lives and the lives of others by not slowing down and paying attention.

• In the past five years (2011-2015), 39 people have died and more than 3,700 people have been injured in work-zone traffic crashes.

• In 2015, 10 people died in work-zone traffic crashes, the most since 2010 (12).

Safety Tips:

• When driving in a construction zone, slow down. Work-zone fines for speeding are more than $300.

• Put the distractions away.

• Distracted driving is a leading factor in crashes in Minnesota and a driver needs to focus 100 percent of their attention on the road.

• Move over for construction workers and their vehicles, as it will provide safety for not only the workers but the motorists as well.

• Never drive impaired.

• Wear your seatbelt as it can save your life.

• Check out for road closures, detours and traffic incidents.

Zipper merge

The Minnesota Department of Transportation urges motorists to use both lanes of traffic in a construction zone. Traffic should not merge together until reaching the designated merge area. At that time, vehicles should alternate in a “zipper” fashion into the open lane.

Some drivers slow too quickly and move over to the lane that will continue through the construction area. This driving behavior can lead to unexpected and dangerous lane switching, serious crashes and road rage.

Some motorists will intentionally drive slow or block the lane that is closing because they believe drivers trying to “beat” the traffic are rude. This is not only dangerous and can lead to a crash or road rage but it’s also illegal. Remember, the driver using the open lane is following the proper way to merge.

Studies show the “zipper merge” works the best to keep traffic flowing, especially when there is a lot of traffic, by:

• Reducing differences in speeds between two lanes.

• Reducing the overall length of traffic backup by as much as 40 percent.

• Reducing congestion on freeway interchanges.

• Creating a sense of fairness and equity that all lanes are moving at the same rate.

How should skaters, rollerbladers behave on the roads?

Q: I was skating the other day and wondering about how skaters/rollerbladers should behave on the roads. I am familiar with bike laws – a bicycle is treated like any other vehicle on the road with a few exceptions. What about inline skates? Especially if I’m training, skating pretty fast and consistently with the flow of traffic?

Do I act like a bicycle? Or like a pedestrian and go on the other side of the road? Or just stay off the road altogether and try to stick to the sidewalk or paved paths?

A: With the summer months beginning, there has been an increase in rollerbladers out sharing the roads with motorists.

When on skates, you are subject to the same obligations as a bicyclist or a driver of an automobile and you must obey all traffic laws.

• Skaters may skate on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted.

• Skaters should skate on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.

• Skaters should signal their turns and should skate in a predictable manner.

• Skaters should wear bright reflective-type material and have on protective equipment.

• Skaters should yield to pedestrians.

• Motorists must drive at safe speeds and be attentive for skaters, bicyclists and pedestrians.

• Motorists must maintain a three-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist or skater.

• Drivers should use caution, look twice for riders when turning, and check blind spots.

While it is not the law, I suggest all skaters wear the proper skating equipment, including a helmet.

We all need to do our part by being alert as a driver, bicyclist, jogger or pedestrian for potential hazards, so life-changing crashes do not happen.

Can you get a DWI while riding a horse? What about a bicycle?

Q: A friend of mine recently saw two people riding their horses at night near a bar. We suspect they were trying to avoid a DWI. Can you get a DWI while riding a horse? What about a bicycle?

A: In Minnesota, it’s a crime for any person to drive, operate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle, within this state or on any boundary water of this state when:

• The person is under the influence of alcohol.

• The person is under the influence of a controlled substance.

• The person is knowingly under the influence of a hazardous substance.

• The person is under the influence of a combination of any two or more of the above elements.

• The person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating or being in physical control of the motor vehicle is 0.08 or more.

• The vehicle is a commercial motor vehicle and the person’s alcohol concentration at the time, or as measured within two hours of the time, of driving, operating or being in physical control of the commercial motor vehicle is 0.04 or more.

• The person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance listed in Schedule I or II, or its metabolite, other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.

A horse or bicycle does not fit the definition of a motor vehicle, so the operator/rider cannot be arrested for DWI. My concern would be for the overall safety of the horse and the rider. I have seen intoxicated bicycle riders crash or struck by vehicles due to their judgment and balance effected by being impaired. An intoxicated person could easily fall off a horse or a bike and be injured.

Impaired driving does not always involve alcohol. Prescription medications, illegal drugs and any substance that effects your ability to drive a vehicle safely can be considered DWI and a driver can be arrested for it. Troopers focus on getting impaired drivers off the road before they hurt or kill themselves or others who are sharing the road.

Whether you are traveling a long distance or staying close to home, it’s important to focus on safe driving. Memorial Day weekend kicked off the summer vacation and travel season, but sadly it also marked the start of the 100 deadliest days on Minnesota roads.

Preliminary numbers show the 100-day stretch between Memorial Day and Labor Day last year accounted for 120 of the 392 traffic fatalities, about 31 percent of all Minnesota traffic deaths in 2016.

To help make the summer travel season safe and enjoyable for everyone, motorists need to drive sober, pay attention, slow down and buckle up.

How safe is it to have a carriers filled with gas cans attached to a car hitch?

Q: I see vehicles go by with extended carriers attached to their hitch with several full gas cans. We discuss what could happen if a driver was not paying attention and ran into one such vehicle. How safe can this be? Is there any laws in place that makes this unlawful?

A: There is no law against having fuel containers on an extended carrier for non-commercial type vehicles. With that being said, I agree with you that it could be a very dangerous situation if a crash would occur.

I’ve investigated and witnessed vehicle fires and they tend to burn very fast when ignited by an outside source, electrical problem or engine fire. I have seen rear-end collisions where the fuel tank was ruptured and gasoline was dispersed at the scene, making it a very dangerous situation. Newer vehicles are designed to keep the fuel from leaking out of the gas tank in the event of a crash by placing the tank in the safest location possible on the vehicle.

When it comes to gas cans/tanks that are placed on a cargo type carrier on the rear of a vehicle, it offers little to no protection if they are struck by another vehicle. If this occurs, fuel will most likely spill out of the tanks and potentially cause a fire to both vehicles.

There are laws that pertain to an extended carrier:

• The carrier and cargo must not block the rear view of the taillights and license plate

• The external cargo carrier must not extend four feet or more beyond the bed or body of the vehicle. If it does, the load/carrier must have an additional rear light(s) when lights are required and when lights are not required, it must have a red, yellow or orange flag or cloth not less than 16 inches square.

I would also like to mention there is a law for anything sticking over the sides of the vehicle that extends beyond the line of the fenders on the driver’s side and extends more than six inches beyond the line of the fenders on the passenger’s side.

Remember to secure any load on a vehicle. Please make sure the load is tied or strapped down so it will not illegally shift over the sides or rear of the vehicle or fall onto the road.

Please place items like gas cans in an area where they have some protection if a crash would occur.

Can I get information on the School Patrol Summer Camp?

Q: I was told the Minnesota State Patrol is involved in teaching a school patrol camp in the summer. Can you provide me with some information about it?

A: Legionville is a summer camp where school patrol students are taught the fundamentals of school patrol, school bus safety, bicycle and pedestrian safety. It is located just north of Brainerd, and is 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 79 years of instruction. It actually started 81 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.

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 may be some limited numbers of scholarships available each year through local schools, State Patrol Troopers Association, local American Legion posts and many other venues. The registration fee is $275 per student and that includes lodging and meals.

Campers will enjoy six days and five nights of learning and fun. This year, weekly sessions run from the middle of June, until the middle of August. For registration and camp information go to:

What is a bumper height law and the law about tires that extend out past the fenders?

Q: I want to install a lift kit and put bigger tires on my pickup. I want to comply with all the state laws. What is a bumper height law and the law about tires that extend out past the fenders?

A: Adding a lift kit and installing bigger tires and rims are very popular on pickup trucks. Anytime you make any type of modification or alterations to a vehicle’s stock suspension and tires/rims, it can change how that vehicle handles and preforms. It can also change the way the vehicle handles, steers, brakes and could affect its overall performance.

Below are a list equipment violations and safety issues that I seen over the years with modified trucks:

Bumper height violations- With a raised suspension, bumper height comes to mind. The law in Minnesota says bumper height must be within six inches of the factory bumper height.  The maximum bumper height for 4x4s is 25 inches. Bumpers must be at least four and a half inches tall and must extend 10 inches outside of each frame rail. The height of the bumper shall be determined by measuring from the bottom of the bumper, excluding any vertical bumper attachments, to the ground. A vehicle which has an original bumper which does not exceed a height of 30 inches may be modified by attaching a full width bumper to the regular bumper to meet the height requirement.

Tires exceeding past the fenders- Installing wider wheels on a vehicle that extend past the fenders, required  some type of fender flare added on. The flaps or protectors must be at least as wide as the tires they are protecting and have a ground clearance of not more than nine inches from the ground when the vehicle is empty.

Speeding due to larger tires/rims- The speedometer is reading how many revolutions the tires are making, not how fast they are spinning. With larger tires the circumference of the tires are larger, meaning the distance around the tire is longer, so each revolution you are traveling further than before. Now, the actual speed of the vehicle is higher than the speedometer reads. It will be lower if smaller tires/rims are installed. I recommend stopping at a local auto/tire shop and they can advise on how much your speedometer would be off.

Higher risk for a rollover crash- By increasing the vehicle’s height, it will increase the vehicle’s center of gravity, making it less steady. This could be a problem when taking sharp turns, as a higher center of gravity gives the vehicle a tendency to lean more, increasing the chances of rolling over or losing control.  Additional modifications may be needed to correct this. Make sure to read the lift kit manufacturer’s instructions when installing it yourself or have it professionally installed.

Braking, steering issues, reduced blind spots and overall safety of your vehicle.  By adding bigger tires and rims, the stock brake system may need to be upgraded.  The front suspension may need bigger and stronger parts. Taller vehicles may increase your blind spots, as smaller vehicles may be less visible.  Adding larger mirrors, relocating the current mirrors or adding a blind spot mirror to help see vehicles in blind spots might be necessary.

It is highly recommended to consult with a professional mechanic before modifying a vehicle to assure its safety and it complies with all state laws.

What are the most common vehicle equipment violations you see?

Q: What are the most common vehicle equipment violations you see?

A: In my career as a Minnesota State Trooper, I have witnessed and investigated all kinds of common equipment violations.

The most common violations I have seen are:

Window tint violations: 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 SUV’s are limited to 50 percent on the front side windows. Pickups, vans, and SUV’s are not limited on the rear side and rear windows.

Headlight/taillights out: Every motor vehicle other than a motorcycle must be equipped with at least two headlamps and two tail lamps.

Cracked taillight lens/displaying white light to the rear: Vehicles must display red lights visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.

Suspended objects from the rearview mirror: Any objects suspended between the driver and the windshield are prohibited. This includes parking and handicap permits. Be sure to take them down when the vehicle is in motion and place it back up when parked.

Cracked windshield: A windshield cracked or discolored to an extent to limit or obstruct proper vision.

Bumper height violations: Bumpers shall not exceed a height of 20 inches on any passenger automobile, station wagon, or 25 inches on any four-wheel drive multipurpose type vehicle.

Loud exhaust: Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order which blends the exhaust noise into the overall vehicle noise and no person shall use a muffler cutout. The exhaust system shall not emit or produce a sharp popping or crackling sound.

License plate lights out/plates unreadable: A white light is required for the rear-registration plate and render it legible from a distance of 50 feet to the rear.

Unsecured load:  When hauling a load, all driver must securely cover their haul to prevent any leaking, blowing, shifting or dropping. This includes ice/snow coming off a vehicle.

No seatbelt use: Minnesota law states that drivers and passengers in all seating positions must be buckled up or seated in the correct child restraint. Officers will stop and ticket unbelted drivers or passengers. Seat belts must be worn correctly — low and snug across the hips, and shoulder straps should never be tucked under an arm or behind the back.

No headlight/use in reduced visibility:  Headlights must be on at any time from sunset to sunrise, when it is raining, snowing, sleeting, or hailing; and at any other time when visibility is impaired by weather, smoke, and fog or other conditions that inhibit clear visibility.

Other common violations include speeding, no proof of insurance, expired registration, only displaying one Minnesota license plate, distracted driving, which included texting and driving, expired driver’s license, driving without a  driver’s license  and crossing over the center and fog lines.

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

Is it illegal to drive with my tailgate down?

Q: I like to drive with my tailgate down on my pickup for better gas mileage. The other day, a friend told me this was illegal. Is that true?

A: According to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.43 (b), “No truck shall be driven or parked on any highway with tailgate or tailboard hanging down or projecting from the vehicle except while such vehicle is being loaded or unloaded and except when a load on the tailboard renders impossible the closing of the tailboard.” So, with the information you provided me, I would say it is illegal unless you are hauling something that sticks out beyond the pickup box. I believe this becomes what the main issue of this law is: securement and visibility.

Any time you are hauling or transporting any item, make sure it is secured. Whether it’s tie-down straps, chains, binders or something else, use the applicable device to ensure its securement. Not only can this help prevent you from losing your item on the highway and creating a traffic hazard but in the event of a crash, its securement can add to your safety in preventing injury from another projectile. When hauling anything that sticks out beyond, remember this: M.S.S. 169.52, “When the load upon any vehicle extends to the rear 4 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, 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.”


I now have two driver’s licenses and both are valid. What should I do?

Q: So I lost my driver’s license. Physically, misplaced it and searched high and low and no luck and couldn’t find it anywhere. I went to the DVS and applied for a new one, after a while it came in the mail. Now, several months later I found my old one. So I now have two driver’s licenses and both are valid and expire on the same date. What should I and can I do here?

A: Minnesota law states every person licensed shall have the license in immediate possession at all times when operating a motor vehicle and shall display it when requested by a peace officer enforcing the laws relating to the operation of motor vehicles on public streets and highways.

If a driver’s license (including an instruction permit or provisional license) is lost, destroyed or becomes illegible, a person can obtain a duplicate license if they prove the permit or license has been lost, destroyed or has become illegible, and make payment of the required fee.

A person can’t be in possession of more than one driver’s license. To obtain a new license, stop at any Driver and Vehicle Services Exam Office or Driver’s License Agent and have their old card invalidated.

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

Covering spot light before getting on the highway

Q: I was wondering do I needed to cover my spot light/light bar on top of my pickup before I hit the highway? Let me know what the rules are regarding a cover or no cover. The research I did before purchasing was only KC style or round lights needed a cover in the state of Minnesota. I have included a photograph.

A: No vehicle may be operated on a public highway unless the auxiliary lamps are within the height requirements. Those outside of the height requirements (including yours) must be covered. They are to be completely covered with an opaque material (not allowing light to pass through).

Is it legal to drive with LED lights under the wheel rim?

Q: I have a legal question for you. I would have installed a light located in the wheel well to cast a glow onto the tire and rim. Mine are a purple color. You cannot see the LED light, just the glow. Is it legal for me to drive on the road with this? Thanks!

 A: That color of light would not be allowed. A vehicle can only have a lamp or device that displays a colored light that’s required or allowed by Minnesota law. Depending on where the lamp or light is located, typically only amber, red and white is allowed for headlights to meet the law.

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

What is the rule for when one vehicle is turning left on a yield and the vehicle opposite has a stop sign?

Q: If at an intersection such as on a four-lane highway where you cross over the two lanes and you are in the median crossover at a yield sign and wanting to turn left and there is a vehicle across from you at a stop sign wanting to go straight, are you supposed to yield to that vehicle wanting to go straight even though he has the stop sign or does he have to stay stopped until I make my left turn to enter the main line of traffic?

 A: The driver in the center median has the right-of-way because he only has a yield sign. The other driver has a stop sign and must stop and wait for the person with the yield sign. Be sure to yield the right-of-way to the traffic already in the main line of travel before entering from the crossover or side road.

What happens if a person with a commercial driver’s license gets a DWI in a private, personal vehicle? If he tests at .08 or more, he will lose his regular driver’s license but not the CDL, correct?

A: 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 the loss of a regular license for a minimum of 30 days or possibly up to a year, and possible jail time. Costs of a DWI can be as high as $20,000 when factoring court costs, legal fees and increased insurance premiums.

For those with a CDL, a first DWI conviction in any vehicle would result in a loss (disqualification) of the CDL for one year. A second DWI conviction would result in the loss of a CDL for life. After 10 years, if they can show rehabilitation, a person could possibly get their CDL back.

Minnesota’s enhanced DWI enforcement and education efforts have been factors in the continued reduction of alcohol-related deaths. Still, drunk driving remains a serious threat, contributing to 95 deaths in 2015. There were more than 25,000 motorists arrested for DWI in 2015, and one in seven Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record.

The fight against impaired driving is everyone’s responsibility. If a person plans on consuming alcohol, plan ahead for a sober ride. If you see an impaired person about to get into a vehicle, speak up and find that person a safe ride home.

Why do officers assume someone was speeding when a driver hits ice and loses control?

Q: Why do officers assume someone was speeding when a driver hits ice and loses control? That can happen to the most experienced drivers. Using 169.14.1 to give a person a ticket because he hit some ice and went off the side of the highway seems like that officer has very little compassion.

A: Our main mission is to promote traffic safety through education and enforcement. One of the top contributing factors to why people are losing their lives and being injured on our roadways is speeding or traveling too fast for conditions. Law enforcement sees this far too often. In most cases, these tragic crashes are preventable.

 Many of the fatal and serious injury crashes that I have investigated are the one-vehicle rollovers -or a two-vehicle crash where one of the vehicles was traveling too fast for conditions, lost control and struck another vehicle.

 We all have an obligation to drive with due care and adjust our driving skills to the weather, road and traffic conditions. This is especially true in winter when weather and road conditions can frequently change.

 Losing control of a vehicle is evidence that the driver committed a violation of a traffic or equipment law. Failure to drive with due care is the most common violation when a vehicle loses control and goes off the roadway.

 The number one thing we can all do is slow down and increase our following distances, especially when roads are slippery and the visibility becomes poor.

 In my experience and when talking with my co-workers, the reasons found for a vehicle losing control on slippery road surfaces are typically:

• Traveling too fast for conditions.

• Using cruise control on poor road conditions.

• Following too close.

• Distracted driving

• Unsafe tires

• Driving while impaired

• Fatigued driving

 Each year, 20-30 State Patrol squad cars are struck while at the scene of a crash or traffic stop because of one or more of these factors. Other factors include drivers that fail to move over for emergency vehicles.

 We take traffic enforcement very seriously. Our goal is to reduce crashes and keep everyone safe on our roadways.

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

How do you get emergency information on a smart phone?

Q: With all these smart phones out there, I’ve heard about being able to get emergency information from them if you find someone in some type of medical emergency where they might be unable to speak or may be unresponsive altogether. I know you troopers are the first ones to respond to a lot of these types of things, could you write about that? Love the articles and thank you for providing all of your services.

A: Thank you and you are welcome! You are correct about some smart phones having these options. Depending on the phone, a person can find medical health information by hitting “Emergency” on the password log screen. This provides first-responders or anyone else with emergency access to the user’s Medical ID. A user can configure their Medical ID with a custom picture and name, date of birth, list of medical conditions, notes, allergies, reactions and medications. Users also can display an emergency contact with name, telephone number and relationship.

If you have a phone that allows it (I will use the iOS 8 for iPhone, for example), users can configure it by launching Health, tapping the Medical ID menu in the bottom right, and then choosing “Create Medical ID.” After the Medical ID has been created, users can go back and make changes at any time through the Health app. (See photo attached.)

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

Is there a requirement to remove the snow/ice from a semi-trailer prior to traveling?

Q: Recently I have noticed quite a few semi-trucks on the freeway with snow and ice blowing off the top of the trailers, sometimes in sheets. I can only imagine what would happen if a sheet came off and struck an unsuspecting vehicle while traveling on the roadway. Is there a requirement to remove the snow/ice from a semi-trailer prior to traveling?

A: This type of incident would fall under the “Unsecured load” statute. The law says no vehicle shall be moved on a roadway, unless the load is securely covered to prevent any leaking, blowing, shifting or dropping.

 Ice or any type of debris that comes off a vehicle could be considered an unsecured load. Drivers should be concerned about civil liability if they fail to take reasonable steps to remove snow and ice that result in property damage or injuries from a crash.

 When traveling behind a vehicle with an unsecure load or ice/snow falling from it, give yourself plenty of room behind the vehicle to avoid any obstacles that may fall off and strike your vehicle. If possible, go around or pass the vehicle when it is safe to do so.

 If you are involved in this type of incident where your vehicle is damaged and/or crashes as a result from falling debris, try to get a license-plate number and report it to law enforcement and your insurance company.

 Please take the time to remove all snow, ice and items that may come off your vehicle so it does not become a hazardous situation on the roadway.

Also, clear all frost, snow and ice from the windows so the driver is able to see from all angles.

How should I report people who snow blow their snow into the street?

Q: What should I do about my neighbor who snow blows the snow from his driveway into the street? I do not know who to report this to. This morning I nearly had an accident sliding down our street.

A: There is a law that covers this issue. The state statute says that it is unlawful to obstruct any highway or deposit snow or ice on the road. This prohibits the plowing, blowing, shoveling or otherwise placing of snow on to public roads. This includes the ditch and right-of-way area along the roads. There may be local ordinances against it as well.

Violations are considered misdemeanors, but civil liability also applies 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. Report this type of violation to your local police or sheriff’s departments.

Is a U Turn legal as long as it is not specifically prohibited or is obviously dangerous?

A: You are correct; however, it’s important to make good choices when making U-turns. Minnesota’s law prevents U-turns upon any curve, or where vehicles cannot be seen by the driver of another approaching vehicle from either direction within 1,000 feet. Obviously, it is also illegal to perform a U-turn if it interferes with traffic approaching in the other direction.

When there is a roadway with two or more lanes in the same direction, a driver may turn the vehicle into the farthest lane and temporarily use the shoulder to make a U-turn.

In my years patrolling, I witnessed vehicles on the freeway using the crossovers to go to the opposite lanes that were clearly marked that prohibit it. If you find yourself needing to go in the opposite direction on the freeway, please resist the urge to use the crossovers and wait for the next exit ramp where it can safely be performed.

I have investigated illegal U-turns that caused fatal and seriously injuries. Please use good judgement and make sure the U-turn can be done safely or simply don’t attempt it.

Can you talk about making a left turn at an intersection when you have a green light?

Q: Can you talk about making a left turn at an intersection when you have a green light? Can I enter into the intersection while waiting for a break in traffic?

A: According to the Minnesota driver’s manual, the following are guidelines to follow when making a left turn:

• While waiting to turn, keep your wheels straight and your foot on the brake. If your vehicle is struck from the rear, you will be less likely to be pushed into oncoming traffic.

• Continue signaling until you begin your turn.

• Do not make sudden turns from the wrong lane of traffic.

• Watch for traffic or obstacles in the road you plan to enter.

• Always finish your turn in the correct lane.

• If the car ahead of you is signaling for a left turn, slow down and prepare to stop.

• When waiting to make a left turn at a green traffic light with oncoming traffic, position your vehicle into the intersection. The only opportunity to make a left turn may occur when the green light changes to yellow.

• If you are behind a vehicle making a left turn, do not enter the intersection in case the traffic light turns red as you might not be able to clear the intersection. This type of maneuver is against the law per Minnesota statue 169.15 IMPEDING TRAFFIC; INTERSECTION GRIDLOCK.

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.

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

How many ‘road rage’ incidents are reported to the State Patrol on a yearly basis?

Q: I read about a recent study by the AAA Foundation for traffic safety, which found nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression or road rage behind the wheel at least once in the previous year. How many “road rage” incidents are reported to the State Patrol on a yearly basis?

A: Troopers respond to a number of calls on a daily basis based on driving conduct and many other issues and actions occurring on our highways. While we do not specifically track “road rage” incidents, I can provide statistics on the number of incidents related to driving conduct and other issues.

Driving Complaints:                         57,465 (2015)

                                                              33,865 (2016 to-date)

Gun Pointing Incidents:                  119 (2015)

                                                              76 (2016 to-date)

 Signs of an aggressive driver:

• Ignoring traffic signals

• Speeding and tailgating

• Weaving in and out of traffic

• Making improper lane changes frequently and abruptly

• Passing on the shoulder

• Making hand and facial gestures

• Screaming, honking and flashing lights.

 If confronted by an aggressive driver, you should:

• Get out of their way.

• Stay calm — reaching your destination safely is your goal.

• Do not challenge them.

• Avoid eye contact.

• Ignore gestures and don’t return them.

• Report aggressive driving (vehicle description, license number, location).

• Always buckle up to maintain proper seating position in case of abrupt driving maneuvers.

 Report Aggressive Drivers:

•Find a safe place to call 911

•Be prepared to provide location, vehicle description and license plate.

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

Do I need to have a mirror on the outside passenger side of the door on my pickup truck? 

Q: Do I need to have a mirror on the outside passenger side of the door on my pickup truck? It has one on the driver’s side and a rear view on the windshield.

A: Being that your pickup has one on the windshield and one on the driver’s side, you are legal in Minnesota. According to the Minnesota Driver’s Manual, all passenger vehicles must be equipped with rear-view mirrors. Vehicles such as rental moving trucks, which are not designed to allow a view through the rear window, must be equipped with an additional side mirror. Pickup trucks, which are often used for hauling purposes, must also be equipped with an additional side mirror. The side mirror will provide the driver with a clear view when transported materials obstruct sight through the rear-view mirror.

Vehicles equipped without or limited mirrors can result in a crash as the driver is unable to see behind them from different angles. Driver and passenger-side mirrors help drivers see other vehicles when changing lanes, assist the driver in determining how close other vehicles are, and in the event an emergency vehicle approaches, a driver is able to slow down and safely pullover and yield the right-of-way.

In my experience throughout the years, I have encountered many unsafe situations while responding to emergencies with my lights and siren on where vehicles in front of me had no idea I was behind them. When the driver finally realized there was a patrol car behind them, they would become startled and apply the brakes very hard and/or swerve into the other lanes or shoulder very quickly, creating a very dangerous situation.

I recommend drivers have two outside mirrors, along with a rear-view mirror attached to their windshield at all times. If a driver is pulling an RV or trailer and the view to the rear is obstructed, I recommend purchasing rear-view mirror extensions so the driver is able to clearly see behind the vehicle.

Please avoid distractions while driving and make it a habit of checking rear-view mirrors often. This will increase a driver’s odds of avoiding a crash.

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

What items do I need in an emergency kit?

Q: What items should I have in my vehicle during this extreme cold weather? What is the proper procedure if I become stranded and/or go off the road?

A: With the recent below-zero temperatures, being prepared with an emergency kit and plan can save your life.

We recommend the following items be in your vehicle, especially in the winter:

• Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats

• Snow shovel

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Window-washer solvent

• Ice scraper with brush

• Cloth or roll of paper towels

• Jumper cables

• Tow chain or rope

• Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves)

• Blankets

• Warning devices (flares or triangles)

• Drinking water

• Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers

• First-aid kit

• Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)

• Mobile phone and car charger pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services

If stranded, stay in the vehicle and call 911. Provide the dispatcher with the following information:

• Problem you’re experiencing

• Your location (Get in the habit of looking for mile markers and cross streets/roadways)

• Any injuries to yourself or passengers

• Preferred tow company, otherwise the closest approved tow company will be dispatched

At night, keep your dome light on and activate the vehicle’s emergency flashers. Be aware that snow can plug your vehicle’s exhaust system and cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to enter your car so make sure the exhaust pipe is free of snow and keep a window slightly open while the engine is running. Make sure your vehicle is properly maintained and you have at least a half of a tank of fuel. Slow down and use winter driving skills to avoid crashing or going off the road.

What do solid and dashed white lines and yellow lines mean?

Q: I enjoy reading your column. I have been driving for a number of years but still get confused as to what all the white road markings mean. I know what the white dashes on a road/highway mean – OK to pass. But what do solid white lines mean, particularly if they are on a three-lane highway? Also, what do the intermittent white “bricks” mean? What do narrowly spaced white lines mean verses widely spaced white double lines. Thanks for your help!

A: White lines separate lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.

• A white line with dashes indicates drivers can change lanes in areas where this type of marking is present.

• A line of shorter and thicker white dashes indicates the lane will end.

• A solid white line indicates lane changes are discouraged. Solid white lines also mark cross-walks, stop lines at intersections, parking stalls and the edges of a roadway.

• Double solid white lines indicate lane changes are against the law.

• A solid white line with a bicycle insignia along the side of the road indicates an area designated for bicycle traffic only. Bicycles must travel in the same direction as adjacent traffic.

Yellow lines separate traffic moving in opposite directions.

• A solid yellow line indicates passing is prohibited. Passing in a no-passing zone is illegal.

• A line composed of yellow dashes indicates passing is allowed.

• A solid yellow line may appear on one side of the roadway, while a line composed of dashes appears on the other side. Drivers must obey the marking that is present in their lane of traffic.

• Two solid yellow lines, one in each lane of traffic, indicate passing is prohibited in both directions. Drivers traveling in both directions are prohibited from crossing the double solid center line in order to pass other vehicles.

Please obey the speed limits and passing zones. If the roadway is covered with snow, slow down and look for the no-passing signs and do your best to determine where the lanes are marked.

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

Author: Janelle Von Pinnon

Von Pinnon has been publishing the St. Joseph Newsleader since 1989, the Sartell-St. Stephen Newsleader since 1995 and the Sauk Rapids-Rice Newsleader since 2015. She graduated from Minnesota State University-Moorhead with degrees in mass communications (with an emphasis on print journalism) and biology. She lives in southeast St. Cloud with her husband and two children.

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