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Ask a Trooper: Move over when emergency vehicles are approaching with lights and sirens

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

A: Great question. In my years of patrolling and making traffic stops, when responding to emergencies and the occasional pursuit, motorists have generally done a good job providing space to pass by them. Occasionally though, some drivers were not aware that I was behind them with lights and siren which could possibly be due to driver inattention and distraction. During those times, I have witnessed drivers hit their brakes very hard, at freeway speeds, when they finally do notice which creates a very dangerous situation.

State law says that 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 roadway 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 to 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 that other emergency vehicles may be approaching you 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 were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. Send your questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota to trooper@duluthnews.com or Sgt. Neil Dickenson – Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach him at neil.dickenson@state.mn.us.

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