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Ask a Trooper: Stopping on the interstate

Question: I was driving on the interstate and I pulled off onto the shoulder to take a call on my cellphone, which I thought was the responsible thing to do. As I sat there, a Minnesota State Trooper pulled in behind me. He told me it was not legal to stop on an interstate highway for reasons other than an emergency — even to answer the phone. Is there a law that explains where you have to go or what you need to do before answering your phone while driving?

Answer: There is no specific law explaining where you have to go or what you need to do before answering your phone while driving. The phone really wasn’t the issue here. Being this was an interstate highway, 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 non-motorized traffic also are prohibited from entering onto the freeway.

We encourage motorists to find a safe place to exit and utilize 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. On any other roadway, always find a safe and legal place to pull over to stop, but never use a turn lane or bypass lane to stop in. Use common sense and try not to use the phone at all when driving. Even though it may be technically legal (for most motorists, not all) to be on the phone, it is not safe.

One issue we often deal with on interstate highways in particular stems from passers-by who call in 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 utilizing our resources as efficiently as possible.