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Ask a Trooper: Stop on freeway shoulder only for emergencies

Q: I was driving on the interstate when my phone rang. I pulled off onto the shoulder to take the call, which I thought was the responsible thing to do. As I sat there, a state trooper pulled up behind me; the trooper came to my car and asked if ...

Q: I was driving on the interstate when my phone rang. I pulled off onto the shoulder to take the call, which I thought was the responsible thing to do. As I sat there, a state trooper pulled up behind me; the trooper came to my car and asked if I was having a problem. I told him I was fine, just answering my phone. He told me it was illegal to stop on the shoulder to answer the phone. I needed to drive to the next exit and get off the interstate before answering it. I was amazed to find this was the law. What is the law that explains where you have to go or what you need to do before answering your phone while driving?
A: Great question for a great topic. Let me commend you for thinking about safety first and attempting to do the right thing to avoid distracted driving.
First and foremost, I need to clarify the law. Being this was an interstate, Minnesota law does not allow motorists to stop on a freeway unless it is for an emergency. Signs are posted at all entrance ramps onto the freeway. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorized bicycles and nonmotorized traffic also are prohibited on the freeway.
We encourage motorists to find a safe place to exit and use their phones from there. The main reason stopping along a freeway is a safety issue is due to the high speeds and the fact that there is not a lot of room for error.
Another common issue that troopers deal with is the numerous passersby that call into dispatch to report a “possible” stalled, occupied vehicle. A trooper is then sent to the reported location to either find someone talking on their phone or no longer at the site. Instances like this prevent us from using our resources as efficiently as possible. On other roadways, I would always encourage a motorist to find a safe place to pull over.

Sgt. Neil Dickenson is a public information officer with the Minnesota State Patrol. Send your questions to trooper@duluthnews.com . You may remain anonymous if you choose.

Related Topics: POLICETRANSPORTATION
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