Sgt. Neil Dickenson

Q: When on a freeway, and emergency vehicle is approaching from the rear but not the same lane, is it the law to pull over and stop? Stopping on the freeway can be very dangerous.

A: Minnesota state laws says that upon the immediate approach of an authorized emergency vehicle the driver shall yield the right-of-way and 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. If on a one-way roadway, the driver shall drive to the closest edge or curb and stop.

Every situation varies when emergency vehicles are responding and how much room there is to yield and move over and is there enough time for this to be done in a safe manner.

In my experience in responding to emergencies, I had seen drivers that had not seen or heard me behind them and this had created a very dangerous situation. Some drivers noticed my presence too late and apply the brakes very hard at freeway speeds. Other dangerous situations that I see are lane changes as I am about to pass them on the left.  

By eliminating distractions, you will be able to see and hear an approaching emergency vehicle and other potential dangerous situations that you may encounter.

If you find yourself with an emergency vehicle approaching you very quickly, safely slow down and move over as soon as you are able to and yield to them. Also watch out for the vehicles in front of you in the event that they brake abruptly.

Law enforcement understands that there are some situations where motorists are not able to come to a complete stop, like on a freeway, so officer discretion will come into play.  

Q: What is the law regarding fastening bike carriers and other items to the back of a vehicle which block the ability to read the rear license plate?

A: It is illegal if any part of the taillight or license plate is blocked by a bike, carrier or any object.

A vehicle built after 1960 must have two red tail lights that are plainly visible at 500 feet to the rear, and the license plate must be displayed in a manner that the view of any plate or permit is not obstructed.

A rear end crash could occur when other vehicles can’t see the taillights. Please make sure that your license plate and taillights are visible at all times. Find other options on where to place bigger objects on or in a vehicle so the rear taillights and license plate can be seen at all times.

Another safety issue that we see on our roads is when cargo is not secured.  Make sure you properly secure all items that could potentially come out of your vehicle and potentially cause a crash behind you.  Make sure that tie-down straps are tight and secure and keep an eye on your trailer and cargo while traveling.

In the event that any item comes off a vehicle while in motion, the driver can be cited for an unsecured load, and could be liable for any civil actions that result in property damage or injury to other motorists that are trying to avoid and/or strike the unsecured item. Watch this video for more information on how to secure your load.

Send questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811 or neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.

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