The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 13, 2013

Ask a Trooper: Freeway shoulders

By Jacalyn Sticha
Minnesota State Patrol

—  First, thank you, for being safety minded and avoiding distracted driving. Freeway shoulders are off limits, except in an emergency. This has been restricted since their inception, long before cell phones, as it provides for a safer environment. Signs are posted at all entrance ramps onto the freeway. Pedestrians, bicycles, motorized bicycles, and non-motorized traffic also are prohibited onto the freeway.

 We encourage motorists to exit the freeway and find a safe/legal place to stop and use their phones. Vehicles stopped on the shoulder create a safety hazard, with high speeds and limited space; shoulders should only be used if a driver has no choice. In addition, restricting shoulder use helps reduce vehicles merging slowly and abruptly back into fast moving traffic.

 This is also the reason for freeways being access controlled and having acceleration/deceleration lanes and ramps; minimize extreme differences in speeds, remove intersections and crossing problems and limiting unexpected obstacles.

 When dispatch receives a call about a vehicle on the freeway shoulder, a trooper is sent - when the trooper arrives, the vehicle and driver are, often, gone or just chatting on the phone. This consumes a great deal of a trooper’s time; preventing them from utilizing their time as efficiently as possible with such great daily demand. On other roadways, I would always encourage a motorist to find a safe place to pull over well away from the travel portion of the roadway.