The Free Press, Mankato, MN


February 15, 2011

Ask a Trooper

MANKATO — ASK A TROOPER by Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha

February 14, 2011

Q:  When passing, on a two lane highway, the driver I was passing sped up and was matching my speed, I was stuck in the oncoming traffic lane.  This driver looked at me so I know he knew I was there. What should I have done?

There is no guaranteed strategy and optimal safety cannot be achieved in this situation until it is over. Most importantly remain calm, you will perform better, and understand that you do not have to complete the pass nor do you have to continue accelerating. You need to slow down steadily and greatly, staying aware of the traffic all around you, drop behind the vehicle you are passing and get back into right lane if clear.  I know, easier said than done, but there is no magic safety wand, remaining aware of your surroundings and being as calm as possible will give you the best odds of getting out safely.  

If the driver is unrelenting, or slows with you, turn off onto another roadway, move to the shoulder or field approach, slowing considerably is important to maintain control of your vehicle to achieve this. Again, be aware of other traffic as it might limit your avenues of resolve.

As with any aggressive or angry driver, do not engage, retaliate or become visibly angry yourself - act oblivious. If they are doing this on purpose, they may continue if you react strongly, in some cases that is the prize. When safe to do so, call 911, we want to catch up with this driver.

I have witnessed drivers naturally pace another car when they are being passed . They seem to stop after they realize they have picked up the speed of the car that is passing them. This usually ends in short order and is not intentional.

MSS169.18 DRIVING RULES.  Subdv. 3(2) Passing  "… the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible warning, and shall not increase the speed of the overtaken vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle .”

Other charges could be considered depending on the circumstances;  MSS 169.13 (1)Reckless Driving requires demonstrating  willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property….”   and MSS169.13 (2) Careless Driving requires even less intent and/or awareness that something bad may happen, both are misdemeanor charges.   It is possible that Criminal Vehicle Operation could apply if a crash, with death or injury, occurs; gross negligence must be established.  I have stuck with just traffic related statutes.

Passing is very dangerous on its own; I am not a big fan and would suggest the best defense is resist the temptation,  as few passes are necessary.  Moving at high speeds in the opposing traffic’s lane should never be taken lightly.  Some suggest that after 55 mph most of us cannot accurately gage the gap closure between our vehicle and an oncoming vehicle.  When passing, generally, we DO NOT gain any significant time or distance.

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