Ask a trooper: Using interstate medians to turn around is illegalSend your question E-mail email@example.com or mail your question to Duluth News Tribune, Attn: Ask the State Trooper, 424 W. First St., Duluth, MN 55802. You may remain anonymous if you choose.
CORRECTION: In August, I wrote an article on school patrol crossing guards and stated that there has not been a fatality in Minnesota where a crossing guard was present. I was informed and given a story reported in the Duluth Herald on May 10, 1948, where 9-year-old Carol Frances was struck and killed by a motor vehicle on Grand Avenue and Redruth at 3:30 p.m. in the afternoon. There were crossing guards there, but they did not have their crossing flags with them. The flags/signs were left at the school.
I apologize for this misinformation and appreciate the relatives who contacted me to correct this.
Q: I have noticed an increase in the number of vehicles I see using the median on the interstate to turn around to go the opposite direction. Isn’t this illegal?
A: Not only is it illegal, it can often be extremely dangerous. I also have noticed an increase in this violation with the significant amount of road construction on Interstate 35 and the back-ups in traffic. Unfortunately, the result of this violation in some cases has been a crash. The median crossovers are not intended for normal traffic use on controlled access highways such as I-35. These crossovers are for emergency and maintenance vehicles only. The signage the Minnesota Department of Transportation has posted at the locations clearly states that.
To get an idea of how dangerous this violation can be, consider the speed of the traffic using our freeways. At 70 mph, we are traveling about 103 feet per second. An average reaction time for an alert driver is about 3/4 of a second. This is just the time necessary for an alert driver to perceive a potential hazard. Additional time (and distance) will be required to avoid the hazard.
Consider that in Minnesota the most frequent contributing factor for motor vehicle crashes overall is inattentive driving. Then consider that those most likely to be driving aggressively in excess of the posted speed limit are also likely to be using the left lane where a left shoulder area often does not exist for a driver choosing to use a freeway median to turn around. Then consider that for every 10 mph over 50 mph, our chances of being killed double if we are involved in a crash.
Certainly the excuse I hear most often by those who choose to illegally cross our freeway medians is they were trying to save time and they didn’t want to wait with the back-up of traffic. This is often the same excuse I hear from those exceeding our speed limits.
While inattentive driving results in more crashes overall in Minnesota, the most common contributing factor for fatal crashes in Minnesota is speed. So what’s your time worth?
Sgt. Mark Baker is a member of the Minnesota State Patrol.