Can Minnesota Please Adopt A Traffic Law Like This?
While on vacation in Washington earlier this fall, I saw a sign for something that I feel would make perfect sense on some Minnesota roadways. The sign is tied to a traffic law in states like Washington and California that I feel like has a place on certain roads in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, too.
Don't get me wrong - not everything from the coasts is a good fit in the Midwest, but I feel like most people would agree with me on this particular law. Especially if you've experienced a situation like this law is designed to prevent.
While I can't say I've read every line of Minnesota's traffic laws, I can't remember anything like this in my driver's training course, and I can't seem to find anything in state statute that says this is something already in existence for Minnesota.
Here's a scenario this law would help with
Living in the Duluth area, I travel up the North Shore pretty regularly. Minnesota State Highway 61 is a beautiful route with scenic views of Lake Superior. While a lot of tourists travel this route soaking in the scenery, it is also the main traffic artery between Duluth and all of the North Shore towns all the way up to the Canadian border and to Thunder Bay.
In many cases, travelers on this route find themselves getting behind someone who is going a little (or a lot) slower than the rest of the traffic on the road. With only a couple of precious designated passing lanes and very few other places it is safe to pass, this can be a very frustrating road to drive - especially during the summer and fall months, when tourist traffic is at its peak.
Adding to this, there seems to be a trend for people driving slowly to speed up in those precious few passing lanes, not allowing faster traffic to pass. How frustrating!
This is just one of a number of examples on Minnesota roadways where there aren't safe places to pass, but there tend to be places for traffic to get backed up behind slower drivers or people towing trailers, boats, etc.
What's a solution?
While driving through Olympic National Park in Washington this fall, I saw a few signs on the two-lane roadway that travels along the Pacific Ocean. Those signs simply read "Delay of 5 vehicles illegal must use turnouts", with a handful of turnouts designated along the road.
It works like this:
Signs let slower traffic know a turnout is ahead, with the rule of thumb being if there are 5 or more vehicles right behind you, it's time to pull off and let them by. Those vehicles then use the turnout to allow the faster traffic to pass.
Sure, passing lanes are great, but they are also way more expensive to construct and they require a lot more space than turnouts, which can be paved or gravel, and take up much less space.
Mandating that when a certain number of vehicles are backed up behind you means you need to get out of the way makes perfect sense for Minnesota Highway 61 and a number of other 2-lane Minnesota roadways where there aren't safe places to pass.
Of course, this also requires people to actually follow the law and requires people to enforce it for it to actually work. But providing a regular interval of places for people to pull off and encouraging people to do so would likely make a lot of drivers very happy if/when people actually follow this guidance.
If there happens to be a law about this already in Minnesota that I don't know about, give me a shout and let me know about it!
Minnesota Counties Bigger Than Entire States In The US
Gallery Credit: Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth