Ask a trooper: Reasonable driving speed depends on road conditionsSend 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.
Q: With winter fast approaching I was wondering what is considered a reasonable speed on the roads. I see drivers going faster than I consider safe and was curious.
A: Minnesota has a basic speed law and tells us as drivers that we are required to drive at a safe and reasonable speed according to the conditions. “Reasonable” speed leaves a large opening for interpretation and definitely articulation on our part when we enforce this law. Just because the speed limit signs show a 70 mph speed limit doesn’t necessarily mean it is safe or reasonable to drive that speed. Snow, ice, fog and other conditions may be present that require you to drive at a slower and reasonable speed.
Often we encounter four-wheel drive vehicles where the driver felt safe traveling at a faster speed than other traffic on snow- and ice-covered roads. A four-wheel drive SUV or truck will give you better traction to get through snow and up the hills of Duluth, but braking and steering are not really different than other vehicles on the road. When these types of vehicles lose control and go off the roads, they tend to roll over more often than passenger cars because of the speed and their higher center of gravity.
We already have been seeing the bridge decks and elevated areas on our roads ice up. These are typically the first areas on the roadway to ice up. Be aware of these areas this fall and winter. Try not to accelerate or decelerate on these bridges, and by all means, never use cruise
control when the weather and roads conditions are questionable.
One of the first indications that the roads are icy is seeing another vehicle in the ditch or a crash. If you haven’t already adjusted your speed, it may be time to consider it. Remember to slow down and move a complete lane away from our emergency vehicles while we are doing our jobs this winter, and we all will be safer.
Sgt. Mark Baker is a member of the Minnesota State Patrol.