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Ask a Trooper: Emergency triangles required for stopped commercial vehicles

Questions concerning traffic-related laws or issues in Minnesota may be sent to Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow at 1000 Highway 10 W., Detroit Lakes, MN 56560. You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or email him at jesse.grabow@state.mn.us

Close-up of Minnesota State Patrol trooper's squad vehicle
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Question: Sometimes while I am traveling I’ve noticed a set of reflective triangles out behind a semi? Can I use those on my personal passenger car if it were to break down? Any advice is appreciated.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow
Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow
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Answer: The best thing to do is make sure your vehicle is off the traveled portion of the highway and onto the shoulder. Then turn on your emergency flashers (hazard lights) so your vehicle is more visible to other motorists.

If you can safely display some type of emergency equipment, remember your personal safety. Other motorists might not be able to see you, so pay attention. High-visibility reflective gear would be beneficial. If the roads are slippery and visibility is limited, it’s a very dangerous situation to be outside your vehicle.

If you drive a commercial vehicle, you’re required to carry three emergency triangles and place them in three locations during a stop. Emergency triangles must be placed within 10 minutes of stopping and should be kept in the passenger side box so they can be safely accessed and keep the driver away from traffic.

Roadsite warning triangle for accident or other hazard
Emergency triangles must be placed around commercial vehicles forced to stop along the highway.
Rico Löb / Pixabay

Triangle placement locations may vary based on where the driver stopped. They are spaced out to ensure that other motorists can see the truck from a distance and change lanes or slow down.

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Two-lane undivided highways

  1. One triangle 100 feet in front of the vehicle, centered in the lane the vehicle occupies.
  2. One triangle 10 feet behind the vehicle on the traffic side of the vehicle.
  3. One triangle 100 feet behind the vehicle in the center of the lane the vehicle occupies.

Divided highways and one-way roads

  1. One triangle 10 feet behind the vehicle on the traffic side of the vehicle.
  2. One triangle 100 feet behind the vehicle in the center of the lane the vehicle occupies.
  3. One triangle 200 feet behind the vehicle in the center of the lane the vehicle occupies.

Obstructed view (hills and curves)

  1. If stopped on a two-lane road, place one triangle at least 100 feet ahead of the vehicle.
  2. One triangle should be placed 10 feet behind the vehicle on the traffic side of the vehicle.
  3. Move the rearmost triangle between 100 feet and 500 feet back down the road to provide ample warning. (The maximum distance from the vehicle shall not exceed 500 feet.)

For the rest of the motoring public, if you see emergency triangles, flares, lights or other items, take note immediately and slow down. Be prepared to stop and drive accordingly.

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