Weather Forecast


Ask a Trooper: Some bus drivers exempt from hands-free rule

Q: My understanding is that it is illegal for commercial drivers to use a hand-held mobile phone while they are driving. Is that true? Specifically, I am wondering about a particular bus service. I use a local bus service occasionally, and there are a couple of drivers who get calls (I believe they are personal calls, not of the emergency type) and talk while they are driving. This makes me feel not very safe riding with them, but I wasn't sure what the law is on this.

A: Drivers of commercial vehicles have to use hands-free cell phones and abide by their department policy. However, government-operated commercial vehicle/bus drivers are exempt and can be on the phone, but they must abide by their department policy. Your concerns should be voiced to the bus company in question.

Q: There was a very recent ruling by a judge that motorists can legally flash their lights to warn other motorists of a speed trap. How does this affect law enforcement and is this issue that simple, or is there a lot more to it than that?

A: I heard of the ruling, but I have not yet read any specific legal documents related to that ruling. Traffic law in Minnesota requires dimming your bright lights within 1,000 feet of meeting another vehicle, and that still stands. (Minnesota State Statute 169.61 (b) states: "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."

When you are meeting another driver and they flash their lights at you, the first thing most drivers think of is that maybe you have your own bright lights on and the other driver is trying to get you to dim them.

Other reasons that motorists flash their lights is to warn of a hazard, like deer on or near the highway, objects in the roadway or a host of other reasons. I suppose it differs from where you live, but in my circles, the least of all reasons motorists are flashing their headlights is to warn someone of a speed trap. I don't think it's a big topic of discussion in many law enforcement circles.

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

E-mail 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.