Ask a Trooper — 14 February 2013
Ask a trooper 2012

w/photos

The difference between meeting and following a school bus at a railroad crossing

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Referencing one of your last articles on “passing a school bus that is stopped at a railroad crossing,” they said they MET a bus at the crossing. They did not come up behind it. If you MEET a school bus and it does not have the arm out or lights flashing you would be able to continue on your way just as this person said they did. I agree if you come up behind it at a crossing you cannot pass but that was not the case here.

A: You are correct. Let me make that clarification. “Meeting” a school bus that is stopped at a railroad crossing does not require you to stop, and you are allowed to pass by.  When “following” a school bus that is stopped at a railroad crossing, you are not allowed to pass a school bus or any vehicle at a railroad crossing.

I would also like to mention there is a new law requiring a crossing-control arm on school buses. This is different from the stop arm/stop sign that extends from the left side of the bus. This crossing control arm, or gate, must extend from the front right corner of the front bumper and must do so automatically when the bus stops with red signal lights in use (fig 1). The purpose is to prevent children from crossing in front of the bus in the zone where the driver cannot see them (fig 2).

As of Jan. 1, 2013, newly manufactured school buses in Minnesota must come with the crossing arm/gate. However, if you start taking notice, you will see many of the older buses have been retrofitted with these devices. The appearance of the arm itself may differ but the specs and use must be the same.

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

For more school bus safety visit: https://dps.mn.gov/DIVISIONS/OTS/SCHOOL-BUS-SAFETY/Pages/default.aspx.

 

What are the laws about stopping for schoolbuses?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I read your column, it’s very interesting. I’ve got a question that hasn’t been covered in your column, it’s on schoolbus passing laws. I met a bus just before the railroad tracks, it stopped, of course. I didn’t see any stoparm out, and I don’t think I saw any red flashing lights, so I continued on across the tracks. Then I wondered, was I supposed to stop anyway? This was an ordinary, two-lane highway. Am I in trouble for not stopping? I really don’t know the laws about stopping, and schoolbuses. Is there some place on-line where I can find out, if I’m in trouble? I am concerned about this. Thanks much.

A: First of all thank you. In reference to your question, school buses are required to stop for railroad tracks. In most situations you would be allowed to pass a school bus that is not displaying any red flashing lights or stoparm. But because this was a railroad crossing, you are not allowed to pass anyone. Some areas are set up and designate a spot on the shoulder for buses and other commercial motor vehicles to pull over at railroad crossings so other traffic can continue. As for you being in trouble; I’d say call it a valuable lesson learned.

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 or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

 

How bad is winter compared to summer when it comes to crashes?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: How bad is winter compared to summer when it comes to crashes? it’s legal for a car dealership owner’s family and extended family to all drive cars on “dealer plates.” Is it as bad as we think it is or what? It seems like we have a lot more crashes when the snow flies. How about some winter driving tips too for everyone? Thanks!

A: Historically during the winter weather months in Minnesota, the number of vehicle crashes, especially property damage crashes, increases substantially, but we actually have more serious and fatal crashes on clear dry roads during the summer months. People drive too fast for conditions in the winter, but the speeds seem to be much greater when the roads are dry and the weather is good. Because of the higher speeds, the crashes produce more injuries and deaths. Speed is a major factor in crashes. In fact, it’s the number one contributing factor on our crash reports. Of course we don’t see many motorcycle crashes in the winter but we do see a slight rise in sport utility vehicle type crashes because of the false sense of security riding in those vehicles.

The weather conditions of course are a huge factor, which in turn affect the road conditions. For example, during a winter storm we might have between 200 and 400 vehicles off the road or in crashes. We normally don’t see that volume of traffic incidents occurring on summer days unless there is a natural disaster type of situation that occurs, affecting a large number of motorists. Winter white-out conditions are very common in parts of the state and are extremely dangerous.

During 2009–2011, there were a total of 73,759 crashes during the winter season (Dec-Feb.), accounting for 34 percent of the state’s total crashes. In 2011, crashes on snow/icy road surfaces accounted for nearly 17,000 crashes resulting in 47 deaths and 5,308 injuries. In 2011, January was the leading month for crashes (10,069) and injuries (3,313).

Great winter tips for motorists include: always use seat belts; give yourself plenty of travel time — don’t put your schedule before safety; clear snow and ice from all vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and turn signals; adjust speed to road and weather conditions; lower speeds help drivers avoid crashes and minimize those that occur; keep a safe stopping distance between vehicles, and leave extra room between your vehicle and snow plows or other removal equipment; headlights must be turned on when it’s snowing or sleeting.

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 or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

 

After night of drinking, how can you be arrested following morning?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: After a night out drinking, with my friends, I was arrested the following morning for drunk driving on my way to work. How is this possible?

A: Alcohol-related crashes and DWI arrests do happen in the morning, we see it all the time. Those number of DWI arrests do not compare to what occurs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but are surely something to be looked at and be aware of as we are going to have more crashes when we have more cars on the road and drivers are in a hurry. If we add fatigued drivers, with alcohol still in their system from the night before, crashes will increase.

Here are the very basics about alcohol in your system. Keep in mind there are some factors that change the amount of alcohol absorbed: weight, food, gender just to name a few, but we can still create an accurate guide.

The most important thing to know is alcohol only leaves your system with time. The “average” alcohol dissipation in humans is said to be about 0.015 percent per hour. A cup of coffee or a few hours of sleep will not dissipate alcohol faster; one drink will leave your system in approximately one-and-a-half hours. Now “one drink” is not a three or four shot Martini or a long pour cocktail. One drink for this formula is: one 12 oz. domestic beer, 4 oz. of domestic wine or one shot [ounce] or less of 80-proof alcohol in a cocktail. If you go beyond this definition of “one drink,” more alcohol will be in your system and the relevant amount of time will be needed before it leaves your system.

If you drink heavily and go to sleep for only a short time, before heading out in the morning, alcohol will still be in your system and you are very likely impaired, thus, you are more at risk for crashing and hurting yourself and/or others. Often, in these scenarios, fatigue is a huge factor weighing in also. Sleep with alcohol in your system is not good sleep and fewer than seven or eight hours a night is not recommended if trying to avoid fatigue. Again, there is no magic pill to take – only time will get the alcohol out of your system and it’s important to consider this when making your plans and designating your sober driver. There is zero tolerance for impaired drivers on our roadways.

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

 

Did you know? Minnesota impaired driving facts

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

A little history:

• The state’s first DWI Law was enacted in 1911.
• When baby boomers began to drive in the 1960s, more than 60 percent of traffic deaths were due to drinking and driving. This started to decrease in the 1980s. Currently about 30 percent of all fatalities are alcohol related.
• The earliest record of traffic deaths was in 1910, with 23 fatalities. Systematic record keeping on crashes started much later in the 1930s.

Who and how many:

• More than 570,191 Minnesotans [10.7 percent] have one or more DWIs on record. Of licensed drivers in the state, one in seven has one or more incidents on record, one in 17 has two or more and one in 30 has three or more. Startling, 1,265 Minnesotans have 10 or more impaired driving incidents.
• In 2011, there were 29,257 impaired driving incidents, with 1,903 being underage drivers.
• In 55 percent of impaired driving incidents, the violators are 20- to 34-year-olds. Males committed 73 percent of the incidents.
• Of all violators, 60 percent had no prior alcohol incidents on record, leaving 40 percent as re-offenders. Of those who incur a second violation, half of them will go on to a third,  half with a third incident will incur a fourth. Impaired driving incidents remain permanently on a violator’s record.

Where and when:

• Mahnomen, Mille Lacs, Clearwater, Cass and Becker counties have the highest percentage of impaired driving incidents on record and Stevens, Rock, Lincoln, Carver and Washington have the lowest.
• Fridays account for 16 percent of all alcohol incidents, Saturdays for 27 percent and, finally, Sunday for 23 percent.

Did you know through the holidays, the Minnesota State Patrol and allied law enforcement agencies will have extra patrols on the road focusing specifically on impaired drivers?  You will notice!

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

 

Safe blood-sugar levels for driving

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  Is there a certain safe level for blood sugar for a person who has diabetes? I know a high blood-sugar level affects being able to drive safely. Is there a certain level where a ticket will be written if known by the State Patrol?

A:  First of all I will mention I’m not a doctor. But this much I do know, the blood-sugar concentration or blood-glucose level is the amount of glucose (sugar) present in the blood. Blood-glucose monitoring is the main tool you have to check your diabetes control. This check tells you your blood-glucose level at any one time. There is no level where a ticket would be written by the Minnesota State Patrol. But if there is an incident or a crash that occurs involving a diabetic loss of consciousness or voluntary control and a trooper or any law enforcement officer investigates, a request for an examination of the driver can be submitted to the Driver and Vehicle Services-Driver Evaluation Unit.  The best advice is to ask your healthcare provider what are safe blood-sugar levels.  Some other reasons for a driver’s re-examination can include the following: general physical/health problems; vision problems; lack of physical driving skills, mental or emotional problems (including road rage, memory loss or other); loss of consciousness (seizures); lack of knowledge of traffic laws; and more. If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Hwy. 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205 or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

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

 

What are the laws on safe following distances?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I have a question about people riding your bumper and tailing at unsafe distances. Driving back and forth from work every day, and even just cruising through town, I constantly get tailed by drivers. It especially happens out on a county road where the speed limit is 45 mph for a while. Not only is it annoying, but it’s dangerous. What are the laws on safe following distances for vehicles, and what can be done when someone is riding your bumper?

A: Excellent topic! I understand your concern and frustration. I believe “following too closely” is one of the most under-reported factors in crashes. The reason I say this is based on my experiences while traveling and watching traffic in general. Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.18 Sub.8a says, “The driver of a motor vehicle 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.”

There is no requirement on a specific distance, unless towing a trailer. But this is where good common sense should come into play and this is what I say in accordance with the Minnesota Safety Council.  Defensive Driving Instructors now teach what we call the 3-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 benchmark 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 closely! 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. In some cases you might have to allow six, seven seconds (or even more) to be safe because of existing hazards.

Learn how to recognize any kind of hazard while you are driving out there, and practice the 3-second (plus) following rule. If everyone were to do this, we would not be having so many crashes, injuries or deaths on our roadways. We get many complaints of trucks following too closely. Contrary to popular belief, 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 closely, pull over and let them by.  Tapping your brake lights may not always be a safe option, but in certain cases might help temporarily. Not everyone who follows other vehicles really closely wants to pass you. Some drivers have developed the habit of driving that way all the time. Check in your mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds so you know what is going on around you. While we cannot control the vehicles around us, we can control our own. We need to choose to drive safely in all conditions.

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 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, Minn. 56501-2205. (Or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us)

 

This question is about the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection.

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: This question is about the right of way at an uncontrolled intersection. What I want to get straight here is that I am NOT asking who has the right of way when vehicles arrive at an uncontrolled intersection at the same time, what I am asking is specifically – when the vehicles do NOT arrive at the same time, does the vehicle arriving first always have the right of way, even if one car may be making a turn in the intersection and the other is going straight?

I have always been taught the vehicle that arrives FIRST, irregardless of who is turning and who is not, has the right of way. I have looked for the answer to this question for a long time, and not found it. Can you help? Thank you.

A: You have to understand the traffic law in Minnesota does not give anyone the right of way. It says who has to yield the right of way. Not all driving circumstances or situations are covered specifically in the law, and there are also exceptions in many of our state statutes for various traffic laws. They are not always “cut and dried” nor are they as “black and white” as we want them to be, (or as we wish they were).
I

n your scenario, it’s probably a reasonable assumption that someone arriving first at an uncontrolled intersection would get to go first, no matter which way they are going, but unfortunately, sometimes drivers have to yield the right of way anyway just to avoid a crash. Our laws were made so we can try to prevent crashes but we have other problems to contend with. Some of those problems are that drivers are not paying attention, some drivers are drunk or are on drugs, some don’t know the laws, and many other problems.

All I can tell you is what the law says and you will have to figure it out from there. In part, and according to M.S.S. 169.20, Subdivision 1, “When two vehicles enter an uncontrolled intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. When two vehicles enter an intersection controlled by stop signs or by blinking red traffic signals requiring drivers or vehicles from any direction to stop before proceeding, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. At an uncontrolled approach to a T-shaped intersection, the driver required to turn shall yield to the cross traffic. The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right of way which the driver might otherwise have hereunder.

For left-turn situations, M.S.S. 169.20 Subdivision 2 says, “The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.” Hopefully you will see your answer here, and drivers everywhere will pay attention to their driving as we all work together to create a traffic safety culture in Minnesota.

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

 

I am wondering what the best procedure is when you find an on-coming car coming right for you

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I am wondering what the best procedure is when you find an on-coming car coming right for you. If you steer to the left and have a passenger – you are probably putting them at great risk. If you steer right, you’re probably the goner. Is it best to just slam on the brakes then or what?

A: Head-on crashes can be very deadly. The National Safety Council recommends “The four R’s” when trying to avoid a head-on collision: • READ the road ahead • Drive to the RIGHT • REDUCE your speed and • RIDE off the road.

Let me briefly explain these. Reading the road ahead, means you are scanning, looking around your vehicle. Look up to the next hill, curve or overpass to be aware of your surroundings and other vehicles.

Driving to the right means driving slightly to the right of the center of your lane on two-lane roads. This will put you in a position to be seen sooner by oncoming vehicles intending to pass and for you to be closer to the right for your “escape right.”

Reduce your speed for any hazard, including and especially oncoming vehicles in your lane, but don’t slam on your brakes necessarily.

Then, riding off the road means you are not jerking the wheel and rolling over, you just steer that way and get away from the oncoming vehicle, but watch where you are driving, of course.

Please know when avoiding a head-on collision, you should never steer to the left over the center line or into the oncoming traffic lane – always steer to the right. Also, never jerk the wheel as stated above, because you could lose control and roll your vehicle or worse. If you do have to drive down into the ditch/off the road, aim for something soft, not hard. Hitting small trees or shrubs or brush is a lot safer than hitting a concrete object. If you have to hit something hard, try to hit it with a “glancing blow” instead of directly head on.

Other things that can help save your life or help with head-on-collision situations would include properly wearing the seat belt, driving with your headlights on at all times, driving the speed limit or to the existing conditions and paying strict attention to your driving. Oh, driving sober helps a lot too!

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

 

What are the “four Es” of traffic safety issues?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I keep hear you talking about “Four Es” when it comes to traffic safety issues and I have even heard you talk about a “Fifth E.” What is that and why is it being talked about at certain times during the year?

A: The “four Es” are critical components to traffic safety — education, enforcement, EMS and engineering. The four Es are a product of the statewide Toward Zero Deaths program, which is the umbrella initiative of all Minnesota traffic safety projects.

The TZD formula addresses traffic safety issues by bringing together people from each of the “four Es” to come up with plans that will help reduce fatal and serious injury crashes. This approach has been very successful in reducing preventable traffic deaths.

The “fifth E” is something I personally came up with several years ago and have been talking about a lot in various classes and during traffic safety radio programs and many other venues during the years. The “fifth E” stands for everyone. I believe everyone needs to take personal responsibility for their own actions behind the wheel or as a passenger or pedestrian, a motorcyclist or bicyclist. Everyone needs to work together to insure a safe environment on our roadways. Together, we can accomplish much more, and that is what TZD is all about: working together. This is very important now because for the first time in five years, the number of Minnesota’s annual traffic deaths is up. We’ve had a deadly year and the increase in traffic deaths is a serious wake-up call for all of us to understand our responsibilities behind the wheel.

Let’s close the year safely — during the holidays there will be a statewide campaign to stop drunk drivers.  Help us in this effort — plan ahead for a sober ride and report drunk drivers by calling 911.

 

Safety tips for pedestrians, bikers

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I know the Minnesota pedestrian law says pedestrians in crosswalks have right-of-way; I totally agree. My concern is many times I see people jay-walking in the middle of the block, quite often parents hanging onto kids; and they are expecting traffic to stop for them.  Unfortunately, most times traffic continues past BECAUSE THEY’RE NOT IN A CROSSWALK, which leaves the pedestrians in a serious danger zone. Second safety issue: perhaps people should be reminded of personal safety when riding bikes or walking along roadways with no sidewalks.  Many times lately, I have seen bikes going AGAINST TRAFFIC and pedestrians WALKING WITH TRAFFIC, both of which are exactly opposite to personal safety.

A: These are all great topics and a reminder is good for everyone. You are correct as for Minnesota law stating pedestrians have the right-of-way but I’d really like to emphasize pedestrian safety is a two-way street.

Minnesota law and good common sense states:
• Motorists must treat every corner and intersection as a crosswalk, whether it’s marked or unmarked, and drivers must stop for crossing pedestrians.
• Pedestrians must obey traffic control devices, and when no traffic control device is present, motorists must stop for crossing pedestrians within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
To address your second safety issue you have that correct also. Bicyclists must:
• Ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.
• Obey all traffic-control signs and signals, just as motorists.
• Signal turns and ride in a predictable manner.
• Use a headlight and rear reflectors when it’s dark.

Pedestrians are reminded to walk against traffic. Each year in Minnesota, approximately 30 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists are killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles. These types of collisions are preventable and do not need to be part of the annual reality.  Increasing awareness of pedestrian safety will help reduce pedestrian-vehicle crashes, as well as reduce the fatalities and serious injuries that result from these crashes. Bicyclists and motorists are equally responsible for safety. Many factors contribute to crashes including inattention and distractions. For more information, check out sharetheroadmn.org. Remember, now as we’ve turned back the clocks, days will become darker, making it more difficult to see bikes and pedestrians during morning and afternoon rush hours.

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

 

What are the graduated driver license laws; how are parents involved?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Our community is trying hard to involve parents with our local driver education programs and we would like to see an article written about the graduated driver license laws and some comments about parental involvement. We think this information is critical to safe driving for our teens.

A: This is a very important issue, because motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teens. Also, we recently experienced National Teen Driver Safety Week. There are three basic phases to the graduated driver licensing laws – instructional, provisional and regular unrestricted license. With the instruction permit, the driver must be supervised by a licensed driver age 21 or older who must occupy the front passenger seat and they cannot use a cell phone when the vehicle is in motion except to obtain emergency assistance or prevent a crime about to be committed or unless there is a reasonable belief a person’s life or safety is in danger.

Provisional drivers are typically under age 18 and the following applies: During the first six months of licensure there is no driving between midnight and 5 a.m. unless they are accompanied by a licensed driver age 25 or older or driving between home and place of employment or to and from home and school events for which the school has not provided transportation or for employment purposes. Also during the first six months, they are limited to only one passenger under age 20 unless accompanied by parent or guardian or the passengers are members of the driver’s immediate family. During the next (second) six months of licensure no more than three passengers under age 20 are permitted unless accompanied by parent or guardian or the passengers are members of the driver’s immediate family. Also, for these provisional drivers, they cannot be on a cell phone, including hands-free when the vehicle is in motion except to obtain emergency assistance or prevent a crime about to be committed or unless there is a reasonable belief a person’s life or safety is in danger.

As for the comments, parents need to be involved in the successful transition of teens from non-driver to driver. The permit phase of our graduated driver license laws allows for parents to give their young driver some great driving experience. Unfortunately, many parents ignore this great responsibility and don’t provide much-needed supervised time behind the wheel. There are a lot of great resources available now for parental involvement with their teen driver. I strongly encourage all parents to get as involved in this process as possible. You can begin by checking out all of the resources online. Visit dps.mn.gov, click on “State Patrol.” Then, under the “Traffic Topics” tab click on “Teen Driving.”  You can also go to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website and click on the “divisions” tab, click on “Office of Traffic Safety.”

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

 

Does the adult riding with a teen on a learner’s permit need to be sober by law?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I’ve heard some people comment, or state in the past, that they have used their underage driver with a learner’s permit as a “designated driver” after having a few drinks. To me this sounds like it would be illegal, and if anything just not good common sense. Does the adult riding with a teen on a learner’s permit need to be sober by law?

A: No, they do not have to be sober. Yes, it does not sound like good common sense on the part of the one who would be involved in doing that, but that is just the way it is.
This is what Minnesota State Statute 171.05 Sub.2b says: “Instruction permit use by a person under age 18. (a) This subdivision applies to persons who have applied for and received an instruction permit under subdivision 2. (b) The permit holder may, with the permit in possession, operate a motor vehicle, but must be accompanied by and be under the supervision of a certified driver education instructor, the permit holder’s parent or guardian, or another licensed driver age 21 or older. The supervisor must occupy the seat beside the permit holder.”
Sub.1 states the same if for those “Persons 18 or more years of age. (1) has the permit in immediate possession; and (2) is driving the vehicle while accompanied by an adult licensed driver who is actually occupying a seat beside the driver.”

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

 

Are campaign signs along roads legal?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I’ve noticed some campaign signs alongside the road and very close to intersections. Is this legal?

A: Placement of campaign signs and other unauthorized objects in state highway rights of way is prohibited under Minnesota State Statute 160.27. In addition, campaign signs may not be placed on private property outside of the right of way limits without landowner consent. Highway rights of way include the driving lanes, inside and outside shoulders, ditches and sight corners at intersections. Signs in violation will be removed and impounded at one of the local Minnesota Department of Transportation maintenance truck stations. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor. Civil penalties also may apply if the placement of such material contributes to a motor vehicle crash and injures a person or damages a motor vehicle that runs off the road.
In addition, the Minnesota Outdoor Advertising Control Act (MN State Statute 173.15) prohibits erecting advertising devices on public utility poles, trees and shrubs, and painting or drawing on rocks or natural features. These laws are administered in a fair and impartial manner. Political campaign signs are treated in the same way as any other signs wrongly placed on state highway property by businesses, churches, private citizens or charitable groups. For information regarding the proper placement of campaign signs or where to find signs that have been removed, contact your local MnDOT office. See also www.dot.state.mn.us/govrel/rw_signs.html.

If you have any questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, Minn. 56501-2205 or email him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

 

I have noticed not all passing lanes are marked. Are there paint markings on the road to assist in determining if a lane is for passing or just for right-hand turns if it’s not signed?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I have noticed not all passing lanes are marked. I’ve also noticed there are combination right turn and passing lanes. As I understand, a right-turn lane is not to be used as a passing lane. In fact, passing on the right is unlawful. Are there paint markings on the road to assist in determining if a lane is for passing or just for right-hand turns if it’s not marked?

A: Referring to all passing lanes, I’d say they are well marked. In reference to right-turn lanes and bypass lanes, there are some that are combined. If it’s designated as a “right-turn lane,” that is all it can be used for. Some signs are posted as “right lane must turn right” which serves as a good reminder that passing on the right shoulder is illegal and dangerous. These are usually marked with a solid white line near the right shoulder of the road. A “bypass lane” is the only time passing on the right is allowed. Bypass lanes are usually posted with a sign and a striped white line near the right shoulder. You mentioned the combination of the two known as “bypass and turn lane” which can be posted as that at certain intersections. However, they are also marked with striped white lines alongside the shoulder and should not be confused as a “bypass-” only lane. This is another reason why motorists always need to pay attention while driving.

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

 

My child’s bus stop is on the highway. There have been a number of events/narrow escapes with vehicles not stopping when they should.  What can be done?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  My child’s bus stop is on the highway. There have been a number of events/narrow escapes with vehicles not stopping when they should. What can be done?

A: I would be wary of leaving younger children, alone, at a bus stop on a major highway, particularly, as mornings are becoming darker. Contact your school district regarding routes and stops. School districts have transportation committees that deal with these issues. There may be a few years where parents will have to remain waiting with their children.
Teach your children to wait for vehicles to stop completely (lead vehicle in each lane) before they cross to load the bus, when possible. Never assume a vehicle is stopping or the driver sees them, so try to explain to them how to make eye contact with drivers. If a school bus stop-arm violation does occur, call 911, even if you have only obtained minimal information. Taking action, writing a citation and educating the violator is our best defense.
The basics:
• Do not pass a bus when the stop arm/red lights are activated.
• Stop at least 20 feet away, remaining stopped until the stop arm is retracted and the lights are off.
• When amber pre-warning lights are on you cannot pass on the right of the bus and your intent should be to stop as the stop arm is soon to be extended. The amber lights are warning you of the legal stop sign.
• Passing the bus on the right-hand side or door side if children are still on the street, road or adjacent sidewalk elevates the violation from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor.
• You do not need to stop if the bus is on a parallel roadway if separated by a safety isle or safety zone (grass median, concrete divider).
If these rules are by-passed, things become unpredictable and the safety of our children compromised.

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

 

When golf carts are using a pedestrian crosswalk, are vehicles required to yield?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: When golf carts are using a pedestrian crosswalk are vehicles required to yield? I say it’s a courtesy but not required; my wife says it’s required. This happens in town where the street separates a golf course.

A: By law they are not a pedestrian if on a golf cart unless there is an ordinance or some other special allowance set by local or state officials. Minnesota State Statute 169.212 talks about electric personal assistive mobility devices and how the person operating one has the rights and responsibilities of a pedestrian but this does not include golf carts. So it’s a courtesy.
In Minnesota where traffic-control signals are not in place or in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. The driver must remain stopped until the pedestrian has passed the lane in which the vehicle is stopped. Drivers should try to stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see in time to stop. Also, do not block crosswalks while stopped, and don’t pass other vehicles stopped in these areas.
No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close it’s impossible for the driver to yield. Pedestrians, don’t count on drivers paying attention — make eye contact with motorists before crossing. Continue to be alert and check for vehicles when walking in a crosswalk. A little common sense for drivers and pedestrians can go a long way.

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

 

What’s the rule when school bus lights begin to flash?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I frequently encounter school buses and I see many drivers hesitate and it seems like they don’t know what to do when the school bus lights start flashing. Could you cover this issue?

A: Yes, and great timing! School bus stop-arm violations can occur any time during the school year but they seem to be more frequent at the beginning of the school year and near the end as well. Drivers of all ages are being cited for running the stop arm of a school bus, and the number one reason most drivers give us is they did not see the bus! Many people have trouble with the issue of the yellow lights on the bus; when they start flashing they don’t know if they should stop or go or just what to do.
It helps to know bus drivers are required to activate the yellow flashing lights on the bus at least 100 feet before stopping while in a 35 mph zone or less, and at least 300 feet when they are in a speed zone of 35 mph or more.  It is the opinion of many people those distances may not be adequate and I know bus drivers are very good about adjusting to the traffic conditions as they drive their routes.
Drivers of vehicles who are encountering school buses need to slow down and be ready to stop if need be. The stop arm may come out while you are attempting to go around. If you are meeting a bus, you have the opportunity to communicate with the bus driver, but if you are coming from behind the bus then you really have to be careful.

One idea is to treat the yellow flashing lights on the bus as being red. In other words, plan on stopping if you can. If you are already going around or meeting the bus and the yellow flashing lights come on, then of course you would continue. If you are way back and the yellow lights start flashing, then plan on stopping unless for some reason the situation dictates otherwise. Driving past or meeting a school bus transporting children can be a hazard, so again, slow down and be prepared to stop if needed.
Remember when you stop for a school bus stop arm and sign, you have to stop at least 20 feet away from the bus, and you can’t start moving your vehicle until the bus driver pulls the sign in and the red lights stop flashing. If we all work together on this, we can see a great reduction in these violations.

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

 

With school starting up again, please give some advice on school bus safety?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: With school starting up again, could you please give some advice on school bus safety?

A: I’d be glad to. I feel this is one of the most important topics when it comes to traffic safety because this pertains directly to the world’s most precious cargo – children.
Parents should discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus:
(replace dashes with bullets)
- When getting off a bus, look to be sure no cars are passing on the shoulder (side of the road).
- Before crossing the street, take five “giant steps” out from the front of the bus, or until the driver’s face can be seen.
- Wait for the driver to signal it’s 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.

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 indicates students are either entering or exiting the bus.
- Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) — but they should remain alert for children.
- Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists won’t 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.
In Minnesota, school buses make at least 10,000 school bus trips daily. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for children — children are eight times safer riding in a bus to school than any other vehicles. The most important thing to remember whether you are a motorist or a pedestrian: PAY ATTENTION!

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

 

Mail carrier and gravel roads questions

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q 1: Is a rural mail carrier required to wear a seatbelt when delivering the mail? Infrequently, I act as a substitute mail carrier. The vehicle I drive is not a right-hand drive vehicle. The route consists of 170 miles of mostly rural driving and it’s almost impossible to connect and re-connect the seatbelt when there are more than 100 mailboxes along the route.

A 1: An exemption according to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.686 Sub.2 would be “a rural mail carrier of the U.S. Postal Service or a newspaper delivery person while in the performance of duties.”  So as long as you are actively delivering the mail, you do not have to legally wear your seatbelt.

Q 2: I would like to know what the speed limit is on gravel roads. I know it can’t be over 35 mph right?

A 2: If the gravel-road speed limit is not posted it would be 55 mph. Some rural residential districts may have 35 mph zones posted on their gravel roads which would obviously be that speed limit. Rural two-lane roads mean greater risk for head-on collisions and unsafe passing; narrow shoulders; poor lighting at night. So remember, always drive at safe speeds according to road conditions, and provide for plenty of travel time.

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

 

Misaligned headlights

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Why does the car with the headlight out get pulled over and is given a fix-it ticket and cars with misaligned headlights (that shine right in your face and almost blind you) are not told to correct that with a fix-it ticket?  Personally I would rather meet a one-headlight car, than misaligned.

A: This is a good topic. I’m not quite sure why you feel misaligned headlights are not being enforced but I can tell you from my experience; members of law enforcement are out enforcing on Minnesota roads. Having a headlight out is an obvious equipment issue. But when it comes to alignment, it may not always be as clear to law enforcement on patrol and can appear subjective.
Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.60 says about “Distribution of Light.” “Except as hereinafter provided, the headlamps, the auxiliary low-beam lamps, or the auxiliary driving lamps, or combinations thereof, on motor vehicles shall be so arranged that the driver may select at will between distributions of light projected to different elevations, subject to the following requirements and limitations:
(a) There shall be an uppermost distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed and of such intensity as to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 350 feet ahead for all conditions of loading.
(b) There shall be a lowermost distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least 100 feet ahead; and on a straight level road under any condition of loading none of the high-intensity portion of the beam shall be directed to strike the eyes of an approaching driver.”

M.S.S. 169.61 Composite Beam states; (a) When a motor vehicle is being operated on a highway or shoulder adjacent thereto during the times when lighted lamps on vehicles are required in this chapter, the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle, subject to the following requirements and limitations.
(b) When the driver of a vehicle approaches a vehicle within 1,000 feet, such driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver.
(c) When the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 200 feet to the rear, except when engaged in the act of overtaking and passing, such driver shall use a distribution of light permissible under this chapter other than the uppermost distribution of light specified in section 169.60.

Having come into contact with several misaligned headlights, I have found it’s usually a result of the headlight simply needing to be adjusted – sometimes involving more substantial body work from damage received. A lot of the time it’s an issue of a very heavy load they are hauling in the rear portion of the vehicle. I advised the driver they will need to correct this action and provide some advice how or where they can do this depending on the issue causing the misalignment. Sometimes it just requires adjusting the load.  Others may need either a mechanic or an auto-body specialist.

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

 

Is the correct depth for my tire’s tread depth really from the top of Abe Lincoln’s head to the top of the penny?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Is the correct depth for my tire’s tread depth really from the top of Abe Lincoln’s head to the top of the penny?

A: Close, I actually got a penny out and measured. However, the law states, “ … the depth must not be less than 1/16 of an inch measured in the tread groove nearest the center of the tire at three locations equally spaced around the circumference of the tire….” If you look at a ruler – you will be amazed how little 1/16 of an inch is.
A tire is unsafe if it has ply or cord exposed or is marked “not for highway use,” “for racing purposes only” or “unsafe for highway use.” Additionally, if the tire tread or sidewalls have any cracks, cuts or snags deep enough to expose the body cords or was re-cut or re-grooved below the original tread design depth, the tire is considered unsafe.
Again, it is wise to keep your tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. This insures the most tire surface is on the roadway and the tire does not become convex or concave, again, reducing contact with the roadway.

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

 

Are people on motorized carts considered to be pedestrians?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  This is a question I have been wondering about for some time now.  Are people on motorized carts considered to be pedestrians?  I know it is law to stop for pedestrians in a cross walk, but how about someone who is using a motorized cart?  I have seen people drive their carts in the path of oncoming traffic, assuming they will yield and give them right-of-way.

A:  According to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.212 “Except as otherwise provided by law, a person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device has the rights and responsibilities of a pedestrian.”  It goes on to state, “An electric personal assistive mobility device may be operated on a roadway only:”
(1) while making a direct crossing of a roadway in a marked or unmarked crosswalk;
(2) where no sidewalk is available;
(3) where a sidewalk is so obstructed as to prevent safe use;
(4) when so directed by a traffic-control device or by a peace officer; or
(5) temporarily in order to gain access to a motor vehicle.
Also, “A person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device on a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians at all times. A person operating an electric personal assistive mobility device on a bicycle path must yield the right-of-way to bicycles at all times.”

I would urge caution to anyone crossing the road.  Don’t count on drivers paying attention — make eye contact with motorists. Continue to be alert and check for vehicles when crossing in a crosswalk.  Be predictable — cross or enter streets where it’s legal to do so.

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

 

Foreign car with coffee maker may cause distraction

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  Recently I saw an advertisement of a foreign car promoting that their vehicle is equipped with a coffee maker. With all the focus on distracted driving, what are your thoughts on this?

A:  Great topic!  I did some homework and found the automobile you are speaking of.  After doing this, I soon later noticed how this foreign automaker was promoting how this brand of vehicle was coming to the United States (however nothing was said in “this” advertisement” about the coffee maker.) Distracted driving and technology are current hot topics. I know several people who enjoy having their cup of coffee on their way to work in the morning. “Making” an extremely hot liquid while navigating in and around other vehicles at highway speeds and depending on the road conditions, may not be in the best interest of traffic safety. While many motorists may perceive driving as a routine activity, attentive driving is critical as the traffic environment changes constantly and drivers must be prepared to react. Since there have been vehicles, there have always been distractions. With technology improving and what seems to be the human need for wanting everything faster, we can never lose sight of the responsibility of the primary task – driving. Cell phones, video games, coffee, food and whatever else exists can most certainly be a distraction. And with the advances in technology we can only guess, what next? Let me say this: it’s NOT the tool that is good or bad; it’s the way we use it that determines whether it’s supportive or not.  None of this should make the technology less valuable or desirable. Don’t hate it because of how it can be used; appreciate it for the valuable tool it can be and only use it at the proper moments. Set the example for each other and our future drivers. Use good common sense anytime you get behind the wheel. Each year in Minnesota, distracted or inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries. The Office of Traffic Safety estimates these numbers are vastly under-reported due to law enforcement’s challenge in determining distraction as a crash factor. Again, pay attention – be safe.

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

 

Could you please review laws for catalytic converters and exhaust systems?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  What are the penalties in Minnesota for removing a catalytic converter on a vehicle if the sound level of the car is kept reasonable? Is there a specific law that prohibits the removal of the cat or are they more pertaining to the sound level produced from the process? Also, if you know what the statute that identifies requirements for the exhaust system of a vehicle that would also be greatly appreciated.

A:  Your question makes some false assumptions and mixes things up a little. The sound level of the vehicle is a different issue than the catalytic converter. To put it very simply, the exhaust system laws require the sound of the exhaust has to blend in with the overall noise of the vehicle. The statute number dealing with exhaust systems is M.S.S. 169.69. Fines for loud exhaust currently average around $127.

Removal of catalytic converters is a whole different story. The removal without replacement, of a catalytic converter by individuals or automotive services is a violation of Section 203(a) (3) (B) of the federal Clean Air Act. The intent of this law is to protect our air quality (not to reduce noise levels). A catalytic converter is one of the most important pollution-control devices on a car. It burns fuel that was not completely used by the engine which prevents emission of air pollutants. This law requires vehicles to retain their original manufacturer-certified configuration for emission-control equipment. The only exceptions are for racing or vintage display vehicles.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency enforces this law which has a maximum civil penalty for violation by a dealer or manufacturer of $25,000 and for any other person $2,500. For additional information about catalytic converter laws or traffic-related laws in Minnesota, please send your questions to: Trooper Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Hwy. 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56501. Or reach me at jesse.grabow@state.mn.us.

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

 

What are the dangers of driving a 15-passenger van?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  I’ve heard some information about the dangers of a 15-passenger van. I was surprised at some of the information and I believe it’s very valuable, so can you please write about it? Some of these vehicles are still being driven.

A:  Yes, even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued warnings on this issue in previous years. Many crashes around the country are one-vehicle rollovers and involve multiple-deaths. Many of those occur in 15-passenger vans. Most of those vans are already “on the way out,” but like you said, they are still being driven. Colleges, schools, churches, various non-professional sports teams as well as private businesses are all users of these 15-passenger vans. The dangers are many and include driver error and vehicle issues. Drivers tend to over-drive the vehicle capacity by speeding and making sudden turns when the vehicle is overloaded or incorrectly loaded.

A loophole in the law results in the fact most of those vans do not have safety glass in them because they were actually a cargo van ordered with seats. Cargo vans did not need the safety glass, nor do the cargo vans have all the vehicle-occupant safety features and crush-proof zones they should have to keep humans safe while riding in them. In many of these types of vehicles, the roof will crush down to the seats during a rollover. That is why we see headlines declaring crashes that killed several persons in one crash. Crashes for this type of vehicle can be caused by one factor or a combination of factors such as speed, sudden turns, tire failures or blow-outs and/or overloading with passengers or cargo or both. Remember these vehicles have a high center of gravity and drivers need to compensate for that with good driving techniques and safe loading procedures.

If you have or are responsible for a 15-passenger van, follow these simple rules to keep the vehicle occupants safe. Keep the tires in good shape and maintain them properly. Always drive under 60 mph, even if in a faster speed zone. Don’t overload the van by putting too many people in it and don’t load it unsafely with cargo, especially by putting too much weight to the back or too high. Don’t swerve the van or make sudden turns, especially at speeds over 30 mph. If you currently have a 15-passenger van and you are using it for long distances to move a lot of people and cargo then you need to seriously consider replacing the van with a much safer vehicle like a small bus or other special vehicle like a “people mover.” Always wear you seatbelt too.

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

 

Is it legal to turn right on a red-light arrow?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I was down in Maple Grove and had turned off of 694 unto Hemlock Lane. Coming off the ramp there is a stoplight controlling traffic onto Hemlock Lane. The right turn arrow was red and I was stopped in the left lane of two lanes and the gal behind me was giving me the horn to turn right. The guy along side of me in the right lane turned on the red right turn arrow. To me it doesn’t seem right to make a right-hand turn on a red right turn arrow but what do you say?

A: Yes, you can make a right turn on a “red arrow” after you make a complete stop. You can then proceed with the right turn if there are no posted signs that state “no right turn on red” and if it is safe to do so (no oncoming traffic or pedestrians with the right of way – green light). I would also like to add a reminder that when making the right turn from left lane to stay with that left lane during the entire change of course.

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

 

What is the legal way to transport a hand gun?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: What is the recommended (legal) way to transport my 9 mm handgun in my car as I drive from my home to my lake cabin? Should I have the ammo clip locked in a separate container from the gun itself?  What about the bullets?

A: I can tell you what the law says and you can figure it out from there. According to M.S.S. 97B.045 Subdivision 1, A person may not transport a firearm in a motor vehicle unless the firearm is: (1) unloaded and in a gun case expressly made to contain a firearm, and the case fully encloses the firearm by being zipped, snapped, buckled, tied or otherwise fastened, and without any portion of the firearm exposed; (2) unloaded and in the closed trunk of a motor vehicle; or (3) a handgun carried in compliance with sections 624.714 (having a permit) and 624.715 (other rare exemptions).

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

 

Are the people that work at the rest areas able to use the turnaround on the Interstate to get to work?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Are the people who work at the rest areas able to use the turnaround on the Interstate to get to work? I’ve noticed the turnarounds are by the rest-area exits and this would save them many miles of travel depending on the direction they are traveling from.

A: No, the turnarounds or crossovers on the freeway are not to be used by employees of the rest area. The crossovers are posted with “no U-turn” signs. The crossovers are to be used by law enforcement and emergency vehicles along with highway maintenance vehicles. Even though this would save a person considerable miles, they need to use the proper exit like everyone else.

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

 

Is it legal for a car dealership owner’s family and extended family to all drive cars on “dealer plates.”

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I was wondering if it’s legal for a car dealership owner’s family and extended family to all drive cars on “dealer plates.”

A: The answer to your question is the owner and spouse can drive with dealer plates. Their children cannot unless he/she is a full-time employee or if part-time, only for business purposes. Extended family and friends are not allowed. The Driver and Vehicle Service spell out the usages very nicely when the dealer receives their dealer plates.

Minnesota dealer rule 7400.6000 states the following: The registrar shall immediately revoke a dealer demonstration plate or a dealer in-transit plate when the registrar has sufficient cause to believe the plate was used on a vehicle other than as provided in Minnesota Statutes, section 168.27, subdivisions 16 and 17. When a dealer plate is revoked, the dealer shall surrender the plate to a peace officer or to the registrar at the time notice of revocation is delivered to the dealer. If a revoked dealer plate is not at the dealer’s place of business when a notice of the revocation is served, the dealer shall surrender the plate to the registrar within 48 hours after notice of the revocation is served. The vehicle on which the dealer plate was misused must be titled and registered within 10 days of the revocation of the plate. There are several investigations for this violation the State Patrol has acted upon from receiving a citizen’s tip.

Dealers may display dealer plates only on vehicles they own or are holding for resale. The plate must be firmly affixed to the rear of the vehicle. It cannot be displayed in the window. Only one plate is displayed on the vehicle. Some other examples of improper dealer plate use include the following: consignment vehicles, courtesy or loaner cars, lease cars, tow trucks, service trucks, parts trucks, vehicles sold to an employee on contract, or a vehicle used by the spouse of a dealership’s employee.

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

 

What are laws regarding running board lights?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I’d like to put some lights on the running boards of my pickup. Are there any laws on this?

A: Yes there is a law in reference to this. According to Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169.59 Subd. 2 “Any vehicle may be equipped with not more than one running board courtesy lamp on each side thereof, which shall emit a white or yellow light without glare.”

Q: I have an aftermarket license plate bracket but not sure if it’s legal. I heard somewhere that they are not allowed. Could you explain this for me?

A: Without out observing it I couldn’t tell you. I will explain what M.S.S. 169.79 Subd. 7 states. “All plates must be (1) securely fastened so as to prevent them from swinging, (2) displayed horizontally with the identifying numbers and letters facing outward from the vehicle, and (3) mounted in the upright position. The person driving the motor vehicle shall keep the plate legible and unobstructed and free from grease, dust, or other blurring material so that 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 whatever, including any clear or colorless material that affects the plate’s visibility or reflectivity.”

So this aftermarket license plate bracket cannot cover any of the assigned letters, numbers, or the state of origin. Assigned letters and numbers also includes the tabs that must display the month of expiration in the lower left corner of each plate and the year of expiration in the lower right corner of each plate. This is where I notice most of the issues with the aftermarket brackets. Many end up covering those tabs. Even some of the brackets that have made attempts to display the tab areas have left too much still obstructing the tab letters and numbers. This will require the owner to take it upon themselves to trim that out, so those tab areas are completely unobstructed.

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

 

Is Basic Safe Speed Law enforced when roads are not marked?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: I know of several roads that have no speed zone signs at all in Minnesota. My question is: Does this go under the Basic Safe Speed Law, or is 55, 60 or even 70 a legal speed for the stretch of road when not marked?

A: By statute, the law for speeding in part says that, “Where no special hazard exists the following speeds shall be lawful, but any speeds in excess of such limits shall be prima facie evidence that the speed is not reasonable or prudent and that it is unlawful; except that the speed limit within any municipality shall be a maximum limit and any speed in excess thereof shall be unlawful: 30 miles per hour in an urban district; 55 miles per hour in locations other than those specified in this section.”  What this basically means is that if there is no posting, a road in town is deemed by statute to be a 30 zone and out of town a 55 zone (Unless roads are in bad shape from the weather.)  Always watch for speed limit signs and always drive to the conditions.

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

 

What is the correct following distance?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

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? Isn’t there a rule of so many vehicle lengths for miles per hour to use as a guide?

A: The law states a specific distance for vehicles pulling trailers. This includes trucks as well as semi-truck tractors with trailers. They must maintain a minimum distance of 500 feet. While the law does not state a specific distance for vehicles not pulling trailers, we do teach a rule which might help you. We no longer teach the old rule of one car length for every 10 miles an hour of speed. These days, it is just not good enough.

The Minnesota Safety Council Defensive Driving Instructors now teach what we call the 3-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 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.

Learn how to recognize any kind of hazard while you are driving out there, and practice the 3-second (plus) following rule. If everyone were to do this, we would not be having so many crashes, injuries or deaths on our roadways. We get many complaints of trucks following too close. Contrary to popular belief, 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 closely, pull over and let them by. Tapping your brake lights may not always be a safe option, but in certain cases might help temporarily. Not everyone who follows other vehicles real closely wants to pass you. Some drivers have developed the habit of driving that way all the time! Check in your mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds so you know what is going on around you. While we cannot control the vehicles around us, we can control our own. We can choose to drive safely in all conditions.

The law does state 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. This needs to be heeded by all of us!

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

 

Is it legal to ride your bike on sidewalks in town?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  I want to start by saying I really enjoy your article and read it every week. I am 13 years old and like riding my bike around town. I like to be safe so I wear a helmet and try to be very careful. I am wondering if it is legal to ride your bike on the sidewalks in town or should I try to stay on the road? I like to stay on the sidewalks in the downtown area because of all the traffic, but in residential areas I ride on the road.

A:  Excellent question for a great topic! I’m glad to hear you wear a helmet and try to be very careful. To answer your question, I will state Minnesota State Statute (M.S.S.) 169169.22 Sub.4(d) “A person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking and passing any pedestrian. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district unless permitted by local authorities. Local authorities may prohibit the operation of bicycles on any sidewalk or crosswalk under their jurisdiction.”

Ultimately you will need to check with the city to see what the local laws are in their downtown area. Each city is different in what they allow so always check with them. Again, this is an excellent question with spring officially being here. Thank you for the question.

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

 

Does the State Patrol have dog handler units?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: Does the State Patrol have dog handler units? If so, please tell me all about them. I am very interested and I really have not heard much about if the State Patrol has them or not, like many other departments do.

A: As a matter of fact, we do. I contacted Sgt. Robert Frisby, who is the canine coordinator in our Investigative Services section. According to him, we have a total of 14 dogs statewide. Most are Belgium Malinois; however, we do have a couple Labs. All the dogs are single-purpose drug-detection dogs; they do not do tracking or apprehension work. Sgt. Frisby also gave me a lot of other interesting information about our K-9 unit.

Our unit is well respected regionally, and nationally. A number of unit members have placed high at national detector dog trials. Last year at the U.S. Police Canine Association National Detector Dog Trials in Mississippi, we had teams place first and third nationally. We have one other previous national Champion in the unit and several have placed in the top 10 and 20 in their careers. We also have one ATF Explosive Detection Dog assigned to our CMV section based out of the metro. That dog is also a Lab and is monitored by the ATF.

Our handlers work the road with their canine partners responding to calls for service in the stations to which they are assigned. When not responding to calls for service, our troopers/handlers try to make the most of their time and work with their canine partners. Most of the canine deployments annually are on State Patrol traffic stops. We seize considerable amounts of contraband annually and are used by local and federal agencies regularly to help with vehicle stops and sniffs. Our teams are also used to assisting with search warrants on structures when requested. We are fortunate to have a very close working relationship with many of the allied agencies in the areas we serve.

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

 

Three questions

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q 1: Where can I get information about road conditions when traveling?

A 1: For weather-related road-condition information you can follow mndps_msp on Twitter and the #mnstorm hash tag. This will have updates about winter storm events. To look up the latest road conditions anywhere in Minnesota, call 5-1-1 or visit www.511mn.org.  Always plan ahead and I highly recommend carrying a very detailed map.

Q 2: How many headlights are required on a vehicle?

A 2: State law mandates two for all vehicles, unless your vehicle is a motorcycle. Then you are required to have one. A reminder with that, you are not allowed to have more than two standard headlights along with two fog lights making a total of four on your vehicle.

Q 3: The other day I was driving on a city street and noticed somebody using their pickup to pull a sled full of kids. Is there a law about this?

A 3: Yes there is a law about this. Minnesota State Statute (MSS) 169.222 Sub.3 prevents clinging to a vehicle. It states, “Persons riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, toboggan, sled, skateboard or toy vehicle shall not attach the same or themselves to any street car or vehicle upon a roadway.” Obviously that behavior was not safe or smart. It may be in the best interest of everyone’s safety to get a license plate, vehicle description, location and report it as soon as possible to the local authority.

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

 

What advice can you give me about winter driving?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q: What advice can you give me about winter driving? With some of the recent storms, I am looking for myself and for my children who are young drivers.

A: This is an excellent topic and I believe we have plenty of winter left despite how mild it has been. The first thing I will say, “SLOW DOWN!”  In 2008–2010 in Minnesota, illegal or unsafe speed was a contributing factor in 266 fatal crashes resulting in 296 deaths. During the same period, fatalities resulting from speed-related crashes cost Minnesota more than $362 million.

When the roads are covered in snow, ice, slush or more, you need to drive according to the conditions. Just because there is a posted speed limit of (ex. 55 mph) does not mean you must drive that speed. You need to slow down and drive according to the conditions. Law regarding speed is built on Minnesota State Statute (MSS) 169.14 Subd.1 Duty To Drive With Due Care. “No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions. Every driver is responsible for becoming and remaining aware of the actual and potential hazards existing on the highway and must use due care in operating a vehicle. In every event, speed shall be so restricted as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person, vehicle or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.”

I am often asked how fast can I drive then? My reply is use “common sense.” If you are consistently passing a majority of vehicles on the highway on a day where the roads are not in the best shape or having the potential of being slippery, I’m guessing you are driving too fast. Troopers are usually busy on those days responding to and investigating crashes and providing assistance to those that ran off the road and are now stuck in the ditch. But when Troopers come across the aggressive driver of a vehicle so blatant with their actions, we will make contact.

• Slow down, take your time.
• Allow for plenty of travel time.
• Make sure your tires are in good condition and have a safe amount of tread.
• Do not use cruise control on snow/icy/wet roads.

Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot. If they are not ready or have not had the experience to prepare for winter driving, wait until spring to allow them to drive on their own.  In the meantime, make sure your vehicles are still equipped with scrapers/brushes along with winter survival kits.

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

 

Why do bridge decks freeze up faster than the rest of the roadway?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Q:  Why do bridge decks freeze up faster than the rest of the roadway?

A:  Bridges are made of steel and concrete which conduct heat well and the heat within the structure is released rapidly from all sides when temperatures drop. When the bridge loses heat while being hit with freezing wind and air from all sides, it quickly responds matching the dropping temperatures; leaving icy bridge decks. I might add that bridges, on purpose, are often built above cold spots, like rivers, adding to this quick cool system.

A road doesn’t have as many avenues for the heat to escape and thus doesn’t cool as fast being insulated from the earth below.  Additionally, asphalt roads do not conduct heat well and the response to frigid temperatures is slower.

With that being said, we still have a lot of winter left and even though this has been an unusually warm and mild winter compared to most, this is Minnesota and things can change fast. Be prepared for the worst. Do not use cruise control on snowy/icy/wet roads and make sure to turn those headlights on when it’s snowing/sleeting/raining or foggy.

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

 

What is the legal amount of tint allowed on vehicle windows?

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

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

A: What you heard is correct. I will list what applies to auto dealers: Minnesota State Statute (MSS) 168.27 sub.30 states, “A new motor vehicle dealer, used motor vehicle dealer or motor vehicle lessor may not sell or lease a motor vehicle at retail for registration in Minnesota that does not meet the glazing material requirements under section 169.71, subdivision 4.” Also according to MSS 169.71 Sub.5(a) “No person shall sell or offer for sale or use on any motor vehicle, windows or windshields that are composed of, covered by or treated with material that fails to comply with the provisions of subdivision 4. No person shall apply or offer to apply, as part of a business transaction, material to motor vehicle windows or windshields that fails to comply with the provisions of subdivision 4.” This states those people or businesses that apply an illegal amount of tint are also in violation.  Those who violate this can be charged with a misdemeanor.

This does not mean you are automatically exempt from a citation yourself. As the driver/owner of a vehicle, you can be held accountable and cited also. Law Enforcement can and does follow up on issues regarding tint but if you do have problems down the road, you may be looking at a civil matter with the business you dealt with. If you purchase a vehicle that has tinted windows and would like to know if you are legal, here is what I suggest. Stop in at a Minnesota State Patrol office, Sheriff’s office or your local police department. Most agencies and officers are equipped with tint meters and would be able to let you know what your tint level is at. I’ve been approached several times when fueling up my squad car and am always glad to provide some insight. It’s better to find out sooner than later (red lights in the rear view mirror) that you need to make the necessary changes.

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

 

I like to drive with my tailgate down

by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

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 that it’s 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.

Anytime you are hauling or transporting any item, make sure it is secured.  Whether it’s tie-down straps, chains, binders or other, use the applicable device to ensure its securement. Not only can this help 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 four feet or more beyond the bed or body of such vehicle there shall be displayed at the extreme rear end of the load, at the times when lighted lamps on vehicles are required in this chapter, 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.”

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

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