In 2000, the Minnesota legislature passed a law requiring motorists to move over when passing stopped emergency vehicles if it is safe to do so. The original law was passed in response to the death of Minnesota State Patrol Corporal Ted Foss, who was killed while on the shoulder of the road during a traffic stop. Over the years, the law has been expanded apply to utility vehicles, construction vehicles, and more. The law has also been clarified to require that drivers leave a vacant lane between themselves and the emergency vehicle, if possible.
This year, the legislature has expanded the law yet again. As of July 1, 2023, the statute now also applies to stalled or disabled vehicles on the roadside. Under the new law, when a vehicle is stopped on the roadside with either its hazard lights activated or with people visibly present outside the vehicle, oncoming traffic is required to move either to the furthest lane away from the stalled vehicle, or, move over so as to leave one vacant lane between their car and the stalled vehicle. This is only required if it is possible for the driver to safely complete the lane change. Where a safe lane change is not possible, drivers are required to reduce speed to a speed that is “reasonable and prudent under the conditions.”
This isn’t a bad law. In fact, it’s a great idea to try to protect motorists on our roadways. But it also highlights the amount of gray area that is often present in criminal law. What speed is “reasonable and prudent under the conditions” is something that two people might view very differently. And if your view is different from that of a police officer who happens to be in the area, you just might find yourself wondering why you’ve been pulled over.