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12 Minnesota State Patrol cars hit in two weeks, rivaling past year-long totals

MOORHEAD, Minn. — Last year, 19 Minnesota State Patrol cars were struck by passing cars while stopped on the side of the road. In the first half of February, more than half that number have already been hit, with many of the crashes injuring officers.

With nearly one crash a day this month, Minnesota State Patrol officials want to remind drivers to move to the opposite lane when they see a stopped squad car.

Twelve patrol cars have been struck on the roadside by passing vehicles as of Feb. 13, according to spokesman Sgt. Jesse Grabow, who said injuries were involved in at least five of the cases. The incidents occurred on roads ranging from major Interstate freeways to rural highways across greater Minnesota and in the Twin Cities.

Two cars were hit in January, bringing the 2019 total to 14. According to numbers provided by the Minnesota State Patrol, that's as many as were hit in all of 2017.

Vehicles crashing into patrol cars is more common in winter months, Grabow said, but the number of crashes this February far exceeds any month in the last three years. Six similar crashes were reported by state troopers in the entire month of January in 2016, half the number logged less than halfway into February 2019.

"It just makes for a really bad feeling," Grabow said. "It's very stressful."

There are fewer roadside crashes in the summer months, and some drivers have pointed to severe winter weather as the culprit for recent crashes. Grabow said it's no excuse.

"Ultimately the driver's responsible for keeping control of that vehicle," he said. "That's just due care and that's just good common sense."

It's also the law. Every state in the U.S. requires oncoming cars to slow down or to get into another lane when approaching a stationary vehicle on the roadside.

Penalties for failing to move over in Minnesota range from a $100 fine to more serious charges like careless or reckless driving, Grabow said.

Forum Digital News Producer Alex Derosier contributed to this report