Minnesota adopts speeding-while-passing rule, primary seat belt law

| Friday, May 29, 2009

A new law in Minnesota allows drivers to travel 10 mph over the speed limit while passing on certain two-lane highways. Also included in the bill is a provision allowing for stricter seat belt enforcement.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law this month the bill – HF108 – permitting drivers to exceed the speed limit by 10 mph to pass vehicles on two-lane highways posted with speeds of at least 55 mph.

Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said the requirement is needed because law enforcement isn’t as lenient as they used to be when it comes to passing slower traffic.

“In past times when you went to speed up to go around a car police officers knew what you were doing and they cut you some slack,” Rukavina told Land Line. “But nowadays seems most of them don’t do that so technically we have to change the law to allow for basically what has been a practice for most motorists. And in fact has been a practice for most police officers, but things have changed.”

Rukavina said he is hopeful the change also will reduce instances of road rage.

Truck driver and OOIDA Life Member Davy Jones of Duluth, MN, said the passing rule makes sense.

“You just can’t pass somebody at 55 in a 55 and ever get the job done. You got to kick ’er up,” Jones told Land Line.

The new law also includes a provision that makes Minnesota the 29th state to allow police to pull drivers over solely for not wearing their seat belts. In less than two weeks, police in the North Star State will be permitted to pull over drivers for not buckling up.

Currently, law enforcement can ticket drivers for not buckling up only after stopping a vehicle for another traffic violation, such as speeding or a bad taillight. When the new law takes effect June 9, law enforcement will no longer need another reason for stopping drivers and issuing $25 fines for failure to buckle up.

Until this year, the effort continued to run into opposition from those warning of Big Brother-style government intrusion or racial profiling. Supporters said saving lives and the lure of federal money should be reason enough to approve the stricter rule.

The 2005 federal highway funding legislation gives any state that adopts tougher seat belt rules one-time grant money. The last chance for states to upgrade their seat belt law and access extra federal funding for highway safety programs is June 30.

Arkansas and Florida already took the step this year allowing the states to secure $10 million and $35 million, respectively. In Minnesota, passage of the new law will amount to a $3.4 million boost in federal funding.

“By passing primary seat belt, we’re not only saving the lives of Minnesotans, but providing an economic benefit to the state,” Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, said in a written statement.

“In the midst of a budget crisis, where we’re doing all we can to save costs and secure funds, this legislation will have a significant impact. Along with saving state health care costs, we’re bringing in federal money for traffic-safety efforts.”

To view other legislative activities of interest for Minnesota in 2009, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor

Editor’s Note: Please share your thoughts with us about the legislation included in this story. Comments may be sent to statelegislativedesk@ooida.com.