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Ask a Trooper: Driving Questions

Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol

Question: Almost every day I watch my neighbors pull over on the shoulder of the road to check their mailboxes. The road has a shoulder, but traffic still has to move over toward the center line. It looks very unsafe. I have watched drivers flash their lights and honk their horns, but people continue to check their mail and obstruct traffic this way. What is the rule of the road in this case? I know it would be a lot safer if they just pulled into their driveways and walked to the mailboxes, but that doesn’t work in a “me-me” society. Note: they pull into the oncoming shoulder.

Also, while driving home the other night, a car was turning left into a driveway. I was the third car behind the turning car. I slowed and moved a little onto the shoulder. The two cars in front of me passed on the right of the turning car. The truck behind me could not get past me and the driver was livid! He was honking and yelling and flipping the bird. I felt bad to slow him down but I know better than to pass on the right. Was I in the right to block the shoulder of the road? Thank you.

Answer: You can’t lawfully drive over the center line in the wrong direction for any reason except to make a safe and legal pass. If there is a crash, there is going to be trouble for sure. It would be a lot safer (though technically not legal) if it was on a dead end road out in the middle of nowhere, or on a cul-de-sac or similar, but we see this being done on hills and in no-passing zones.

For the passing-on-the-right part of your question, you can be over to the right of your lane, but if you are stopped and parked on or over the white fog line marking the shoulder, you could be liable in the event of a crash. Worse yet, you could get hit and injured or killed, or place others at risk. We advise not to do that. Passing on the right is against the law unless there is a lane provide—like a bypass lane—or if you are driving on a multi-laned highway. A driver can never use the shoulder of a road (paved or unpaved) or a turn lane for passing on the right. It is safe, and not legal, so we are asking drivers not to do that. Thanks for the questions.