The state’s hands-free law banning drivers from holding phones and other electronic devices while behind the wheel has gotten quite a bit of attention since it went into effect Aug. 1. And numerous drivers have been ticketed.
In January, the Star Tribune reported that law enforcement issued more than 9,700 citations to drivers who broke the law in the first five months that it was in effect.
The story prompted Drive reader Eric Kohnke and a few others to ask if police have been as active in enforcing the “slowpoke” law, which requires slower drivers to move right. It also took effect on Aug. 1.
“Do you plan on sharing with readers the number of people that were cited violating the left lane law?” Kohnke wrote in an e-mail after the January article. “I see people constantly getting in the left lane and then driving the same speed as the vehicle on their right.”
Well, Eric, few have been cited. Data from the State Court Administrator’s Office show that statewide from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2019, just 25 motorists were ticketed for failing to “move out of the left-most lane to allow another vehicle to pass, when practicable under existing conditions,” as the law requires on roads such as freeways with two or more travel lanes going in the same direction. Nine more were cited between Jan. 1 and April 24 of this year, the data show.
Of those cited, 15 were convicted and assessed the $50 fine plus court fees. Three drivers had their cases dismissed and 16 had cases continued for dismissal, meaning the citations will be dropped if the driver doesn’t have any more infractions within a set amount of time.
The law also states on roads with only one lane in the direction of travel that a motorist driving slow enough to create a traffic hazard must operate the vehicle as close to the right curb or edge of the road as practical.
Lt. Gordon Shank of the State Patrol said the left-lane law does not give lead-foot drivers license to speed. Road rage can happen when slow and fast drivers mingle. To prevent it, “move over and allow others to go around.”
Why new I-94 ramp isn’t 2 lanes
The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is building a new flyover ramp to carry traffic from northbound Interstate 35W to westbound I-94 as part of the larger Downtown to Crosstown remake of I-35W through south Minneapolis.
The flyover ramp will be a single lane, just like the old one, prompting one Drive reader to ask why it isn’t two.
The new ramp will put drivers going from northbound I-35W to westbound I-94 into their own lane on the left side of the freeway instead of the right. With that change, drivers will no longer have to merge as they did when coming off the old ramp, said MnDOT spokesman David Aeikens.
“We believe this is more safe and will help reduce the backups on I-35W to I-94 West that were common in the peak periods before the ramp was closed,” he said.
About 75% of traffic using the flyover ramp continues on westbound I-94 past I-394. The new ramp will have more capacity and could be expanded to include a second lane, Aeikens said.
That is not possible now because there isn’t room on westbound I-94 to handle a second lane of traffic entering from I-35W. If MnDOT is able to increase capacity through the Lowry Hill Tunnel, there would be the option to re-stripe the ramp to two lanes if the demand existed, Aeikens said.
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