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Ask a Trooper: Rules for using the shoulder of the road

Q: Is it legal to pull up to your mailbox on the shoulder to get your mail? The road has a shoulder, but traffic still has to move over the centerline. It looks very unsafe. What is the rule of the road in this case? I know it would be a lot safe...

Sgt. Neil Dickenson
Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol

 

Q: Is it legal to pull up to your mailbox on the shoulder to get your mail? The road has a shoulder, but traffic still has to move over the centerline. It looks very unsafe. What is the rule of the road in this case? I know it would be a lot safer if they just pulled into their driveway and walked to the mailbox.

Also, while driving home the other night, a car was turning left into a driveway. I was the third car behind the turning car. I slowed and moved a little onto the shoulder. The two cars in front of me passed on the right of the turning car. The truck that was behind me could not pass me and was very unhappy! I felt bad to slow him down but I know better than to pass on the right. Was I in the right to block shoulder of the road?

A: You can't lawfully drive over the centerline (the wrong direction) for any reason except to make a safe and legal pass. It would be a lot safer (though technically not legal) if it was on a dead end road out in the middle of nowhere, or on a cul-de-sac, but we see this being done on hills and in no-passing zones.

For the passing on the right part of your question, you can be over to the right of your lane, but if you are stopped and are parked on or over the white fog line (marking the shoulder), then you could be liable if in a crash. Worse yet, you could get hit and injured or killed (along with someone else). We advise not to do that. Passing on the right is against the law unless there is a lane provided - like a bypass lane - or if you are driving on a multi-lane highway. A driver can never use the shoulder of a road (paved or unpaved) or a turn lane for passing on the right. It is unsafe, and not legal, so we are asking drivers not to do that.

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A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson - Minnesota State Patrol at 1131 Mesaba Ave, Duluth, MN 55811. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE or reach him at neil.dickenson@state.mn.us .

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