Ask A Trooper 2018

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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).

Can you become a pilot for the Minnesota State Patrol?

Q: I am interested in becoming a pilot and I see the Minnesota State Patrol is hiring. I am wondering if you could tell me more about your flight section and pilots.

A: A Marine Corps helicopter pilot. A couple of military aviation unit members. An airline flight school graduate turned city cop. Their backgrounds are varied, but they have one thing in common: They all joined the State Patrol’s aviation program. Interestingly, the majority of the State Patrol’s nine pilots weren’t pilots when they became troopers. After joining the State Patrol, they took lessons at local flight schools or flying clubs with flight instructors.

The State Patrol has two helicopters and four fixed-wing planes, with another helicopter on the way this fall. The six aircraft are shared between the State Patrol’s two flight bases in St. Paul and Brainerd. The pilots rotate the aircraft according to maintenance requirements and accumulated flight time — this way, they can choose the aircraft that is most suited to the mission without worrying whether it’s up to the task.

Both helicopters, for example are equipped with thermal-imaging cameras, spotlights and downlink capabilities to send camera images to the ground in real time. One helicopter, Trooper 8, also has a cargo hook, sliding rear doors and lifting capabilities for rescue operations. One of the fixed-wing planes also has a thermal-imaging camera; it and the other planes are equipped with squad radios and are great for traffic enforcement, blood runs (i.e., bringing donated blood over long distances to patients who need it), personnel transport and training.

Anyone who decides they want to become a State Patrol pilot has to be a trooper for a minimum of five years with no suspensions-without-pay in the previous three years. On their last three annual performance evaluations, they need a “consistently meets expectations” rating in the Overall Contribution of Employee section.

A trooper who wants to fly for the State Patrol also needs a single-engine fixed-wing private pilot’s license with an instrument rating, along with at least 100 hours of flight experience in a single-engine fixed-wing plane.

If a trooper who wants to be a State Patrol pilot has these and a few other qualifications, they still need to pass a selection process. They submit a resume and their performance evaluations, then undergo an interview process with a selection board.

Once selected, trooper pilots have to live within 20 miles of their assigned base. Then they’re on a 12-month probationary period and they have to get their commercial pilot rating within the first nine months.

The road (or should we say flight path?) to becoming a State Patrol pilot is a long and arduous one, but the pilots themselves will tell you it’s worth it. That way state troopers are not only keeping Minnesotans safe on the roads — they’re doing so from the skies, as well.

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

Is a working horn required in a motor vehicle? 

Q: I noticed the horn on my vehicle does not work. Is there a law that says a vehicle must have a working horn and when it can be used?

A:  According to state law, your vehicle must have a horn that’s “in good working order and capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet. The horn or other warning device must not emit an unreasonably loud or harsh sound or a whistle.” I believe the definition of whistle is quite clear, and use common sense to determine if a horn is unreasonably loud or harsh. If it’s too loud or harsh, it could violate a local noise ordinance.

Minnesota law says it’s legal to honk a horn when it’s “reasonably necessary to insure safe operation” on the road. For example, that’d include warning other vehicles, pedestrians or animals as needed to avoid a crash.

If it’s not a safety situation, it’s illegal to honk the horn on the road. Excessive or illegal use of the horn could result in a road-rage scenario, so only use it when needed for safety.

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

What is the Minnesota state law regarding stop signs, red lights?

Q: I do a lot of local driving for work, and every day I see an abundance of vehicles roll through stops. This happens most frequently in a “right-on-red” situation. I’ve seen many near misses by vehicles rolling through a “right-on-red.” I was just wondering what our state law requires of us to do at stop signs/red lights.

A: According to the Minnesota Driver’s Manual, when approaching a red light (solid or flashing) or a stop sign, motorists must come to a complete stop prior to nearest of reaching a marked limit line, entering the crosswalk at the near side of the intersection or entering the intersection itself.

When making a right turn on a red light, Minnesota law allows motorists to make a right turn after a complete stop at a red light, unless there’s a sign indicating the turn is prohibited. Drivers must use caution and follow right-of-way rules.

When making a left turn on a red light, a motorist can make a left turn after stopping at a red light only from a one-way street onto another one-way street.

Motorcyclists and bicyclists can proceed through a red light, with caution, if:

  • They’ve made a complete stop.
  • The signal continued to show red for an “unreasonable time.”
  • The signal apparently malfunctioned or failed to detect the bicycle or motorcycle.
  • No vehicle or pedestrian was approaching or close enough so as to make going through the red signal dangerous.

Failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or a red light can result in a fine of $300 or more.

Remember to take driving seriously, avoid all distractions and pay attention to your surroundings while operating a motor vehicle.

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

Can a driver under the age of 18 tow a trailer?

Q:  Is there a presentation provided by law enforcement for new teenage drivers? Can a driver, under the age of 18 with a valid permit, tow a trailer in Minnesota?

A: A driver who is under the age of 18 with a valid permit or provisional driver’s license may operate a vehicle towing a single trailer as long as they comply with all of the license restrictions and requirements. If towing a recreational vehicle combination of three, the operator has to be at least 18. Please keep in mind this is a Minnesota law and may not be legal if traveling into other states. If you are planning on traveling through other states, check with their officials on their state towing laws.

Teen driver safety

I have helped present on teen driver safety for the past several years, and law enforcement’s goal is to reduce all teen-related crashes through education and enforcement.

The graduated driver’s licensing law requires driver-education programs to offer a 90-minute class for parents of teens who are in the process of obtaining instruction permits and provisional driver’s licenses. This class provides information regarding teen driving risks, teen driving laws and adult influences on teen driver behaviors.

The parent awareness class is critical to understanding today’s teen driving risks, Minnesota’s teen driving laws and how to help your teen become a safer driver. As a parent, don’t put convenience ahead of safety. Just because teens have their licenses doesn’t mean they’re ready for every driving situation. Parents should continue to supervise their teens’ driving after they’re licensed.

The GDL law also requires students under the age of 18 submit a supervised driving log to the driver exam staff at the time of the road test for the provisional driver’s license. The log must verify the student completed 50 hours of supervised driving time, 15 of which must be nighttime hours. If a parent/guardian completes the parent class and submits a certificate of completion to the driver exam staff at the time of the road test, or if it was submitted when applying for an instruction permit, 40 hours of supervised driving time are required, 15 of which must be nighttime hours.

The key to developing safer teen drivers is to provide supervised experience — a lot of “windshield time,” discuss driving responsibilities with your teen, establish clear family driving rules and follow through with consequences when warranted. We encourage parents to practice with their kids well beyond the minimum requirements of the law to ensure they’re prepared to drive in many driving and weather conditions. The extra required driving practice hours and the supervised driving log help teen drivers become more experienced and help parents track progress and areas to improve.

For additional information on teen driving and laws, go to: https://dps.mn.gov/DIVISIONS/OTS/TEEN-DRIVING/Pages/default.aspx

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, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).


What is the law requiring tinted windows for medical reasons?

Q: Would law enforcement give me a citation if I have a prescription, from my eye doctor, saying that I get migraine headaches from intense lighting and my truck windows can be tinted to 20 percent on driver and passenger windows, for no more than two years?

A: Drivers must be in possession of a prescription or document from their doctor regarding the medical need to have tinted windows below the 50 percent light transmittance, plus or minus 3 percent. If they don’t have the required documentation with them, a law enforcement officer may issue a citation.

The document needs to state the minimum percentage of light transmittance that would satisfy the patient’s prescription or medical needs. The prescription or statement must also contain an expiration date that is 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, a law enforcement officer may stop the vehicle because 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 that most vehicles are already at 75 percent before any modifications.

Below is a summary of Minnesota’s window tint law:

  • 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 sport utility vehicles are limited to 50 percent on the front side windows.
  • Pickups, vans and SUVs are not limited on the rear side and rear windows.  It 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 trooper will issue a citation or warning.  Prior contact data is stored in our Minnesota State Patrol computer system, and if the vehicle is stopped again, the trooper will be able to read what that vehicle was stopped for, driver and passenger information, if a citation or warning was issued and any comments entered from the previous trooper(s).

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


What are officers instructed to do when they encounter an individual who has overdosed on opioid?

Q: I’ve heard the Minnesota State Patrol is carrying around some stuff to help people that might have an issue with opioid abuse. Can you talk more about that? Thanks for all you do!

A:  A Minnesota state trooper’s job is surprisingly varied. Sure, you’d expect them to patrol the highways enforcing traffic laws and to help motorists in trouble. But saving people from drug overdoses might not have occurred to you.

Opioid abuse is becoming more and more widespread, and the State Patrol has had their eye on the issue. In Minnesota alone, drug overdose deaths increased 17.9 percent from 2015 to 2016, and those who use opioids have a lot to choose from: heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl and codeine, just to name a few.

So starting in January, Col. Matthew Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, issued a general order requiring every state trooper to carry Narcan. Narcan is the brand name for a prescription medication called naloxone, and it is sprayed into the nose to reverse the effects of opioid drug overdoses.

“It’s important for troopers,” Langer said, “Because we’re deployed all over the state and find ourselves in different situations, assisting other agencies and the public.” Specifically, troopers on patrol duty, evidence handling and in situations where opioid exposure is a possibility must have naloxone at the ready. Troopers receive special training so they can recognize the signs of opioid overdose and learn to administer naloxone.

Once a trooper administers a dose of naloxone, they have to assign a case number and write a field report. They also have to fill out a form for the Department of Health. This helps them keep tabs on the opioid crises and what’s being done about it.

There’s another reason troopers carry naloxone. Yes, it’s about keeping the public safe – but it’s also about keeping troopers themselves safe. Let’s say a trooper is searching a vehicle after a crash, looking in the glove compartment or center console. If their bare skin comes into contact with even a dusting of fentanyl, for example, it could be lethal. Langer explains, “Narcan will help people who intentionally ingest drugs and first responders who inadvertently come into contact with them.”

So next time you see them out on the roads, remember catching speeders and helping you change a flat tire aren’t the only things that concern the Minnesota State Patrol. They’re also working to keep Minnesotans safe from opioids. Making sure all troopers carry Narcan is, as Col. Langer puts it, “A proactive move by the Minnesota State Patrol in the interest of trooper safety and public safety.”

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


What is the law regarding the ball mount on a trailer when it is not in use?

Q: I was recently told I could not keep the trailer ball mount attached to the receiver of the vehicle when it’s not actually hooked up to a trailer.  Is this in fact true?

A: There is no law in Minnesota that specifically prohibits having a ball hitch in the receiver of a vehicle when not pulling a trailer at that time.  It is also not illegal to have more than one ball hitch on the bumper at one time. There are laws that prohibit anything that obstructs the rear license plate that includes a ball that is attached to the hitch.

The ball hitch needs to be a device approved by the commissioner of public safety. The ball hitch must be of sufficient strength to control and support the weight of a trailer.

I recommend you take out your receiver hitch when it’s not in use because it can cause an injury to your lower leg if you happen to walk into it.  I have also seen an increase in damage to a vehicle that collides with a vehicle to the front where the trailer hitch punctures the front grill, hood and radiator.

Another good reminder is to make sure all your cargo is properly secured and make frequent checks on your trailer, hitch, safety chains and lights when traveling.

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


How does law enforcement communicate with individuals who are deaf?

Q: How and what does law enforcement do when they come across someone who is deaf or has hearing disabilities?

A: This is a good question and as a state trooper I have come across situations dealing with this on traffic stops, motorist assists and crashes.

Minnesota’s deaf and hard-of-hearing community recently helped create a two-way communication card. They provided significant input in the card’s creation, identifying symbols that would be most helpful to them in communicating. The Departments of Public Safety and Human Services collaborated to produce the finished product.

A deaf or hard-of-hearing person can keep the two-sided, laminated card in their car and bring it out to show to law enforcement when necessary. The card features a set of icons the person can point to suggesting the best way to communicate (such as writing or lip-reading) and another set to indicate what help they need. Hospital? Tow truck? Directions? They’re all there on the card.

The law-enforcement officer can also use it to communicate by pointing to the icon indicating what information they need, such as a driver’s license or insurance card. If the officer has pulled over the deaf or hard-of-hearing person, they can point to icons such as the speed limit sign or traffic light on the back of the card to explain why. There’s also a section to help explain what happens next, with icons for things like warnings and tickets.

Along with the icons are helpful tips for communicating, such as, “Maintain eye contact with me while speaking” and “Shining a flashlight in my face will make it hard for me to understand you.” The card ends with a list of things a deaf or hard-of-hearing person might need if arrested or brought in for questions, like assistive technology for phone calls and a sign-language interpreter.

So although traffic stops and flat tires still happen, this communication card can make the interaction safer, easier and more productive for law enforcement and deaf and hard-of-hearing people alike.

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


Where can you display a disability tag in your vehicle? 

Q:  I have a concern about the disability parking certificates and the incorrect use of them. We obtained one last year after my husband suffered leg fractures. The instruction sheet that is 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.” Generally, the people who are most frequently using these are either elderly, disabled to some degree or both. 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:  Thank you for bringing issue up and I couldn’t agree with you more.  You are correct, state law 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 bottommost portion of the windshield; and electronic toll collection devices. This law does not apply to law-enforcement vehicles and other authorized emergency vehicles.

I recently came across some information from a crash re-constructionist who calculated the area obstructed by a 3.5-inch by 5-inch object hung from a mirror or windshield. He estimated the average distance from the driver’s eye to the typical view obstruction is two feet. Because drivers are supposed to scan the road ahead of them as they drive, he based his calculations on a distance of 100 feet in front of the driver. At 100 feet, this object will create a blind spot of 14.58 feet wide and 20.83 feet high for a total of 303 square feet if the hanging object is a perfect four-sided object. As it so happens, 303 square feet is nearly the exact perceived square footage of a typical passenger vehicle at 100 feet away. Now, take into consideration the size of a bicyclist or pedestrian. Throw in a distracted-driving factor and what happens then? When you need to park, put the tag up. 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).

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


What is the law regarding active duty military driver’s licenses?

Q: The law states an active duty military member with residence in Minnesota can have an expired license. But what will happen if I were to be pulled over for a traffic violation and my license was expired?

A:  As long as you are on active duty in the U.S. military, you do not have to renew your expired Minnesota license until after you are discharged from the military. This is regardless of how long you have served in the U.S. military. As a Minnesota driver’s license or ID card holder, you must renew your expired license or ID card within one year of being discharged from the military.

If you are a spouse of an active duty military member, you are also exempt from license renewal if you do not live in Minnesota during the time of active duty.

If you are stopped by law enforcement outside of Minnesota, you may provide your military ID, expired Minnesota license and In Service letter as proof of valid status while in the military. However, not all states may honor the In Service letter. While on leave or prior to you renewing your driver’s license, always have your military ID and expired driver’s license with you. If you are stopped by a Minnesota law enforcement officer, you can explain your current military status and if you have notified DVS of being in the military, this is noted on your record. To make sure your driving records are maintained after your license expires, you should notify Minnesota Driver and Vehicle Services of your military status. Send a copy of your military orders showing where you are stationed and your service date or a letter from your commanding officer with the same information to the following address:

DVS, 445 Minnesota St. Suite 163, St Paul, Minn. 55101

This will allow DVS to provide you with an In Service letter that outlines Minnesota Statutes that exempts active-duty military members from renewal, up to one year from discharge. To expedite this process you may call 651-297-3298.

To renew your license, present your expired Minnesota license and DD214 discharge papers at a DVS location that accepts driver-license applications.

When it comes to vehicle registration, vehicles owned or co-owned by active military men and women kept out of state are exempt from registration tax up to 90 days after discharge, but must pay any applicable sales tax, plate, contributions and filing fees. For complete instructions on how to renew registration call 651-297-2126.

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


How long can a train legally block a road crossing?

Q: I was stuck at a train crossing the other day for half an hour. What is the law on how long a train can block the road crossing and who do I report this to? How do I get this fixed as it seems to happen far too often?

A:  Minnesota law says trains are not to block public roads or streets longer than 10 minutes. You can report any problem to the local government (city, county or state), which can then contact the appropriate railroad company. The state law does not apply to cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, which regulate obstructions of streets by city ordinance.

If there is an ongoing issue, first contact the particular railroad company. If you’re unable to locate appropriate contact information, try their central offices – typically a public-works engineer. If there is no available information, reach out to railroad staff members with the Minnesota Department of Transportation at www.dot.state.mn.us/ofrw/contacts.html

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


How close is too close when following another car?

Q:  What is the correct following distance? Everyone seems to be way too close behind each other. What can I do as a driver having someone too close behind me?

A:  The only law regarding following distance pertains to vehicles pulling trailers. This includes trucks as well as semi-truck tractors with trailers. They must maintain a minimum distance of 500 feet.

While state law does not require a specific distance for vehicles not pulling trailers, it does say you shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the conditions of the highway.

We recommend what’s called the three-second-plus following distance rule. Watch the vehicle in front of you. When that vehicle gets past an object such as a sign, pole, bridge or other landmark then count off three seconds. You should not arrive at that spot sooner than your count to three. If you do, then you are following too close! Also, you must add one second for every hazard that exists. Hazards include but are not limited to heavy traffic, rain, snow, fog, driving into the sun and more. In some cases you might have to allow six, seven seconds (or even more) to be safe because of existing hazards.

Crash facts show a much larger number of cars and pickup trucks being involved in fatal rear-end crashes than semi-truck tractors pulling trailers.

If someone is following you too close, pull over and let them pass. Tapping your brake lights may not always be a safe option, but in certain cases might help temporarily. Check your mirrors every three to five seconds so you know what is going on around you. While we cannot control the vehicles around us, we can control our own driving habits.

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


What should you do if you find a wallet that’s not yours?

Q: My father found a wallet at a big retail store while on vacation and was concerned about handing it off to the staff there, instead deciding to contact the owner directly. He was eventually pulled over by local PD, with the wallet in hand, and was told he could be brought up on theft charges. What should he have done? His intent, clearly, was to ensure the staff at the store wasn’t going to pocket any cash from the wallet before putting it in their safe, but that’s not how the police perceived it.

A: There are two other options that could have been done besides turning the wallet into the store staff. He could had turned it over to a supervisor at the store where it was found. The other option is to report it to the local police or sheriff’s department where it was found.

What could have happened in this situation is the wallet may have been stolen and discarded where your father found it, and it was considered stolen property. By explaining how and where the wallet was found would clear him as a suspect of possessing stolen property. If further evidence is needed, law enforcement could obtain video footage from the store and that would support his statement.

We have had wallets, purses and property found on state highways or freeways turned into a trooper or an MSP office staff employee. We would go through the wallet or purse in an attempt to find some form of identification that can be used to contact that person.

If you ever lose a wallet or purse that contains credit cards and a driver’s license, contact your credit-card companies as soon as you can and report it missing so they can’t be used to purchase anything. Contact your state’s department of vehicle services and report your driver’s license is missing and a duplicate license can be obtained. If the wallet or purse is stolen, report it to your local law-enforcement agency where a report will be generated and the items can be returned to you if found.

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


How do you legally display a license plate and tabs on a trailer?

Q: I recently purchased a trailer that requires yearly tabs. I’m worried the plate will get damaged if I mount it to the manufacture’s bracket. I have noticed throughout the years that owners of some trailers have mounted their trailer plates on the fender well in a vertical position and not horizontal so it can be read easier. Is that legal?

A: If your trailer is a small utility trailer that has 3,000 pounds gross vehicle weight or less, it would receive a permanent Minnesota registration sticker.

The registration sticker issued is displayed on the tongue of the trailer and no plate is required.

For registered trailers weighing more than 3,000 pounds GVW, they would require one license plate with yearly registration displayed horizontally with the identifying numbers and letters facing outward from the trailer and mounted on the rear of the trailer.

I recommend you place your license plate in the manufacturer’s bracket that is more than likely mounted on the rear of the trailer. Having the plate on the fender in a vertical position is illegal.

Remember, the person driving the motor vehicle that is pulling the trailer shall keep the plate legible and unobstructed and free from grease, dust or other blurring material so the lettering is plainly visible at all times. It is unlawful to cover any assigned letters and numbers or the name of the state of origin of a license plate with any material, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate’s visibility or reflectivity.

If law enforcement sees any equipment or registration violation, you could be stopped and warned or issued a citation, so please obey all equipment and traffic laws.

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


When are open-flame heaters allowed on motor vehicles? 

Q: I work for an equipment dealership and we sell road-oil distributors and cold-mix patch boxes on heavy trucks, that are equipped with propane and diesel-fired open-flame burners. Now I have been told by numerous people that having an open flame while moving down the road is illegal, and it totally makes sense, but I would like to know for sure and what rule pertains to it. Can anyone advise as to where I can find this information?

A: State law does say open-flame heaters are allowed on a vehicle when it’s used for heating the cargo of tank motor vehicles. Information on this is under federal statute 49CFR 393.77.

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


When is a placard needed to park?

Q: Both my daughter and I have a disability. I have the handicap license plates on my car and she only has a placard. When she drives my car, does she have to use her placard to park?
 
A: The registered license plates are designed for you to be able to park that vehicle in a disabled/handicap parking location. If your daughter has her own permit, she would need to display her permit in the vehicle when she is parked in a designated disabled/handicap parking location, as the permit is designed for her.
 
Any Minnesota resident who meets one or more of the definitions of a “physically disabled person” can apply to obtain a disability certificate or plates.
 
Disability Certificate (placard):
• Issued to the disabled person, not the vehicle. (A person may qualify for two certificates if they do not have disability license plates.)
• May be displayed on the rear-view mirror or on the dashboard in any vehicle when parked. (The placard should be taken down from the rear view mirror while driving.)
• Can be used to park in designated disability parking spaces when the person named on the certificate is driving or a passenger in the vehicle.
 
Disability License Plates:
• Issued to a vehicle that is primarily owned by a person with a disability, the parent of a child with a disability or the owner of a commercial rental motor vehicle that has been modified for and is used exclusively by permanently physically disabled people.
 
A vehicle that is displaying the parking certificate may be parked by or solely for the benefit of a physically disabled person: in a designated disability parking space; in a non-restricted metered parking space without obligation to pay the meter fee, and without regard to time limitation unless otherwise posted; or in a non-metered time-limited passenger-vehicle space unless otherwise posted.
 
For additional information, go to: www.dps.mn.gov and go to Divisions, Driver and Vehicle Services.
 
A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. 

What are other states doing to make roads safer?

Q: I know Minnesota has made a lot of progress for traffic safety and less people are dying on our roads but what are other states doing?

A: For the first time in nearly a decade, preliminary data from the National Safety Council estimates as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 across the United States. That’s a 6-percent increase over 2015 and a 14-percent increase compared with 2014 – the most dramatic two-year increase in 53 years.

An estimated 4.6-million roadway users were injured seriously enough to require medical attention, a 7-percent increase over 2015. This means 2016 may have been the deadliest year on the roads since 2007 across the country. However, here in Minnesota the numbers are encouraging. Preliminary reports from the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety show 392 people died in traffic crashes in 2016, compared with 411 in 2015.

Several states have their own traffic-safety initiatives and programs. Many of them are a part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration programs (such as click it or ticket, bike to school day, work zone awareness week and more).

Minnesota is involved in the Toward Zero Deaths program. The TZD approach is based on the belief that even one traffic-related death on our roads is unacceptable. This “zero deaths” idea was first adopted in Sweden in 1997 as “Vision Zero” and since then has evolved to several state Departments of Transportation, including Minnesota, that have identified zero deaths as a core objective in their Strategic Highway Safety Plans.

TZD uses a data-driven, interdisciplinary approach that applies education, enforcement, engineering, and emergency medical and trauma services to focus on the issue.

While progress has been made in Minnesota, there are still too many people being injured or killed along our roads. There are still way too many driving and failing to take responsibility for their actions when they get behind the wheel and it’s costing people their lives. Alcohol, speed, distractions and lack of seat-belt use remain the top factors in a majority of these crashes. We need to constantly remember what a big responsibility driving truly is and focus 100 percent of the time on the road and drive like our lives depend on it.

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


Can antique vehicles be sold if they do not have a public serial number/VIN?

Q: It is my understanding a number of antique vehicles from the 1930s and 1940s were constructed with serial numbers, now known as Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs)) pressed into the frame. However, it is my further understanding these vehicles were not constructed with “public” serial numbers or VINs. Can such antique vehicles be sold without a public serial number/VIN?

A: A vehicle does not need a new style public VIN in order to be sold. It can be sold with its original serial number.

A vehicle must have its original identification from when it was manufactured. If it’s missing, it must receive an assigned VIN (blue VIN) from the state of Minnesota for it to be registered and titled. For more information, contact the Driver and Vehicle Services division at dvs.motor.vehicles@state.mn.us

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


What does a white-and-blue pin represent?

Q: I noticed a white-and-blue pin on a highway patrolman’s uniform where a nametag might usually be, what would that stand for?

A: What you saw was most likely a blue-and-white service bar a Trooper received for a life-saving award. This recognition is awarded to State Patrol employees who perform life-saving acts where there’s no unusual hazard to the employee involved. The award is for incidents where a person’s death was imminent if not for the employee’s actions.

Here are other service bars awarded to State Patrol employees:

Meritorious Service Award (maroon-and-gold service bar) – To qualify for this award, the incident must involve great personal risk and pose hazards that could lead to serious injury or loss of life to the employee.

Valor Award (solid maroon service bar with gold lettering) – The Valor Award is for an outstanding degree of dedication and devotion above and beyond professional duty that involved an imminent and undisputable risk of loss of life to the employee. This award is given for an act or series of acts committed with outstanding courage in a situation that, because of its extraordinary circumstance, placed the employee and/or others in actual physical jeopardy. While exposed to danger, the person must have acted with deliberate intent, exercised judgment and performed competent action that reflects credit and admiration upon the employee and the Minnesota State Patrol. This award may be presented posthumously to the next-of-kin of the employee/enforcement officer who would have received the award.

Purple Heart (purple service bar) – This recognition may be awarded to employees seriously injured or killed from acts of aggression or assaults upon them while performing job-related duties. The person’s injuries must involve a substantial risk of death, permanent disfigurement or protracted loss or impairment of their body’s ability to function. This award may be presented posthumously to the next-of-kin of the employee who would have otherwise received the award.

Gold-and-silver stars are added to the service bar for subsequent awards. These service bars are to be worn above the right chest pocket. The name plate is worn above the left chest pocket, just above the badge.

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


Reporting persons who run stop signs

Q: My husband was driving while I was a passenger and an elderly man driving ran a stop sign and cut in front of us. My husband honked his horn to alert the driver prior to him attempting to come into our lane. However, he did not appear to hear us. Fortunately, we were able to avoid being hit, as my husband was an alert driver and saw this coming. Is this something we can report? I am not sure if this man should be driving, as he appeared to have no regard for anyone else on the road. I am not sure what police could have done, as there was no accident or injury. I guess I am curious to know what the protocol is in such a situation.

 A: It sounds like your husband was very attentive and because of this, he was able to avoid a crash. This situation is one of the reasons why law enforcement talks about the importance of avoiding all distractions while driving, as you might be able to see a potential hazard or crash before it happens.

If you witness any dangerous driving conduct, call law enforcement and report the incident as soon as possible. Report your location, attempt to get the license-plate number, direction of travel and the driving conduct you are witnessing. We will do our best to get that vehicle stopped before anyone gets hurt. We will talk to the driver and determine if they are/were impaired, distracted, fatigued, valid to drive and the reason for their driving conduct.

Law enforcement officers can send a request for review to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services if they identify a driver who they believe should re-test or be checked by a doctor. DPS-DVS can allow the person to keep driving with increased limitations such as roadway speed, daylight only, certain times of the day or within a set limit of miles from his or her home. They can also require follow-up doctor’s exams.

 Wearing your seatbelt along with avoiding distractions while driving will increase your chances of not being involved in a crash and could save your life. Take driving seriously each time you get behind the wheel.

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


How are blood relays handled in the state of Minnesota?

Q: I have a question about the Minnesota State Patrol blood relays. Recently, one was performed from the Twin Cities to Red Wing. Why did it involve three patrol officers? I know this isn’t a great distance and have just been wondering what rules or regulations dictate how this is handled.

A: Great question as this story was shared on our Facebook page. The Minnesota State Patrol is divided into districts across the state. Within each district is a station that has an assigned number of troopers.

Troopers will sometimes take the blood relay a great distance depending on how many other troopers are working within the station/district at that time. A number of years ago, I provided a blood relay from Moorhead to Bemidji. Troopers are often tied up with other calls for service (crashes, motorist assists and more), which impacts how the blood is transported.

Time is obviously crucial in these situations so being familiar with the area is critical. Troopers who work their specific district know the area and hospital locations better than troopers from different districts. Troopers making the final leg of the run know the quickest way to get to the hospital while other troopers may not be as familiar with the area.

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


When is it necessary to pull over for a state trooper?

Q: While on the freeway, traffic going the same direction, just wondering if it’s necessary to pull over and stop when the state trooper has his lights on in pursuit of someone?

A: Great question. In my years of patrolling and making traffic stops, responding to emergencies and the occasional pursuit, motorists have generally done a good job in providing us room to go by them, but there were some that were not aware I was behind them with lights and siren. This is possibly due to driver inattention and distraction. This creates a very dangerous situation as I have seen where the driver will notice I am behind them and then they hit the brakes very hard, at freeway speeds, creating a very dangerous situation.

The state law says upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle, the driver shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right-hand edge or curb of the highway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in this position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed, except when otherwise directed by a police officer. The driver of another vehicle on a one-way road shall drive to the closest edge or curb and stop.

Every situation varies as an emergency vehicle might be approaching you very quickly and it could be very difficult to come to a complete stop in the short amount of time required to safely do so. What we are asking the motoring public to do when approached by an emergency vehicle is, slow down (don’t apply the brakes hard) and move over to the right and provide us as much room as safely possible to pass you. Come to a complete stop if you have time to do so on the right shoulder or as far right as you can. Once the emergency vehicle has passed you, be alert because other emergency vehicles may be approaching as well, before pulling onto the road again.

This is a great time to talk about reducing and eliminating all distractions while driving as distracted drivers might not be able to see approaching emergency vehicles or other potential hazards until it is too late, resulting in a crash.

By being alert and eliminating all distractions while driving, you will greatly reduce your chances of becoming involved in a crash resulting in an injury or fatality to yourself and others sharing the road.

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


What items/tools should I have in my car during the winter?

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 that you have at least a half tank of fuel. Slow down and use winter driving skills to avoid crashing or going off the road.

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


What are the various restrictions placed on Minnesota drivers’ licenses?

Q: Can a person legally drive with a neck brace on in Minnesota? It would limit the ability to turn your head side to side or up or down. I’m trying to get facts before I let my family member drive.

A: A person would not be able to legally drive if temporarily wearing a neck brace. Permanent lack of neck mobility would require a restriction placed on the license that notes they can legally drive if there is an “outside rearview mirror.”

For more information on restrictions that may be placed on various types of licenses, please visit https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/dvs/Pages/default.aspx

Below is a complete list of the restrictions that may be placed on various types of licenses.

A – ANY USE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS INVALIDATES LICENSE

B – HAND-OPERATED BRAKES

C – COMPLETE HAND CONTROLS

D – PROSTHETIC AID

E – AUTOMATIC TRANS CMV

F – OUTSIDE MIRRORS

G – DAYLIGHT DRIVING ONLY

H – AUTOMATIC TRANS

I – ALSO VALID FOR 3-WHEEL MOTORCYCLE

J – FARM-WORK AND DRIVER-EDUCATION INSTRUCTION PERMIT

K – INTRASTATE ONLY

L – NOT VALID FOR CMVS WITH AIR BRAKES

M – NO CLASS A PASSENGER BUS

N – NO CLASS A AND B PASSENGER BUS

O – NO TRACTOR-TRAILER CMV

P – NO PASSENGERS IN CMV BUS

Q – HAND-OPERATED LIGHT-BEAM CONTROL

R – ELEVATED DRIVER SEAT

U – NO FREEWAY DRIVING

V – FMCSA MEDICAL WAIVER

W – BUS < 24 CAPACITY

X – NO CARGO IN CMV TANK VEHICLE

Y – IGNITION INTERLOCK REQUIRED

Z – AIR OVER HYDRAULIC BRAKE SYSTEM

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

What items should you store in your car in case of emergency during the winter months?

Q: With the recent temperatures below zero in the area, can you give some tips on what should be in your vehicle and what to do if your car stalls or gets stuck.

A: When the temperatures are well below zero, it can result in a life threatening situation if you are not prepared. Having a safety plan and emergency kit in your vehicle can save your life.

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 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 that you have at least a half a tank of fuel.

Slow down and use winter driving skills to avoid crashing or going off the road.

Be patient, as law enforcement and the towing companies may be busy with other calls. We will get there as soon as possible.

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

  • Cell phone and car charger
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window-washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Tow chain or rope
  • Extra warm clothing (gloves, hats, scarves) and 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)
  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats

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

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