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Ask a trooper: Drivers should use low beams farther than law requires

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Q: Can you tell me what the law is as far as people driving with their high beams on when they are in the middle of traffic? I am practically blinded by people coming toward me or tailgating me with their high beams on and refusing to lower them. Is it a law that they must dim their lights or can they drive with their high beams on continuously?

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A: Minnesota State Statute 169.61 in part says, “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.” It also says, “When the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle” … they have to dim “within 200 feet to the rear.” That law also says that when passing, low beams must be used. With the new bright headlights and the speed of our vehicles, and the fact that most people don’t know how to judge 1,000 feet or 200 feet, drivers should use the low beams a lot farther away than what the law specifies. If lights are blinding you, slow down and look away from the lights or pull over to a safe place until the hazard passes.

Q: Often, many vehicles pass me as I am trying to obey the speed limit. Sometimes I wonder if I am causing a traffic hazard by driving at the speed limit. What is the safe and legal thing to do in that situation?

A: Nationally, traffic safety experts teach that speed kills, and more speed kills more people. The statistics prove it over and over, year after year. We never teach to speed up just because everyone else is going faster (especially over the speed limit). Always drive the speed limit or below. If you are going a lot slower than the speed limit, you may be imposing a danger because of the speed differential of the traffic and it would be best to pull over somewhere and have a cup of coffee or eat some lunch until the traffic volume settles down, or avoid driving in those conditions and times when traffic is like that.

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers is a regional public information officer for the Minnesota State Patrol.

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