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Ask a Trooper: The facts of a crash

Question: When there is a vehicle mishap, it is reported to the public that alcohol did or did not play a part. What about a cellphone? Also, there is never any mention that drugs did or did not play a part in the mishap. With the known wide-spre...

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All possible factors that contribute to a crash are investigated, but not all pieces of the investigation are initially public. Per public and private data laws, law enforcement is required to provide public data to the public and media as requested. BrainerdDispatch.com Illustration

Question: When there is a vehicle mishap, it is reported to the public that alcohol did or did not play a part. What about a cellphone? Also, there is never any mention that drugs did or did not play a part in the mishap. With the known wide-spread availability/use of drugs, shouldn't this also be a determination in a vehicle mishap?

Answer: Good question. All possible factors that contribute to a crash are investigated, but not all pieces of the investigation are initially public. Per public and private data laws, law enforcement is required to provide public data to the public and media as requested.

Some of the public data information that law enforcement is required to report if requested includes:

• Action time, date and place of the incident.

• Brief factual reconstruction of events.

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• Victims and casualties, unless protected by law.

• Witnesses, unless protected by law.

• Resistance encountered.

• Pursuit.

• Weapons used by agency or other individual.

• Charges, arrest or search warrant.

• Identities of all law enforcement agencies involved.

• Identities of individual officers taking action, unless protected by law.

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• Date, time and legal basis for release from custody.

• Case number.

• Healthcare facilities victims taken to.

• Seat belts worn.

• Blood alcohol concentration, if known at the time of the request.

Driving under the influence and distracted driving are major contributing factors in fatal and serious injury crashes in Minnesota. Driving under the influence is not only an alcohol-related crime, it also includes illegal and abused prescription drugs, or taken in combination with alcohol.

If controlled substance impairment is suspected, a blood or urine test will be taken by search warrant by the officer. That sample is sent to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for analysis that will show if drugs/alcohol were in the driver's system and the amount at the time of the incident. The analysis can take up to six weeks. As a result we cannot report drug impairment, apart from suspicion, until the results are returned from the lab.

Alleged distracted driving crashes take time, especially when processing data to see how a cell phone may have played a part in the crash. A serious and fatal crash investigation will take and number of weeks to months to complete. All possible contributing factors will be examined to determine why the crash occurred.

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Please don't drive while under the influence and try to avoid or limit all distractions while driving.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN 55811; on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE; or by email at neil.dickenson@state.mn.us

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