Ask a trooper: December 17, 2014

 

Question: I was recently in a stalled vehicle in a dangerous location (where two roads divide) when the alternator went out on my truck so I did not have battery power for emergency flashers or signals. I saw at Fleet Farm they were selling an orange flashing light that magnetically fastens to a vehicle. On the package it suggests to check with local officials regarding color of this device. Could I use this orange flashing light on my truck in case I get in this type of situation again? It was scary because I didn't have any way to signal my vehicle was stalled, and couldn't even open the tailgate because I needed power to unlock it.
Answer: That sounds like quite the ordeal you were in and you are not alone. Often while on patrol, I’ve come across similar situations where a person was stranded and unable to use their vehicle’s hazard lights. This is what Minnesota State Statute 169.59 says about flashing warning lights.
“Any vehicle may be equipped with lamps which may be used for the purpose of warning the operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing, and when so equipped may display such warning in addition to any other warning signals required by this section… The lamps used to display such warnings to the front shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall display simultaneous flashing white or amber lights, or any shade of color between white and amber. The lamps used to display such warnings to the rear shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall show simultaneously flashing amber or red lights, or any shade of color between amber and red. Instead of a pair of lamps that flash simultaneously, either one or two strobe lights or rotating beacon lights with an amber or yellow lens may be used both to the front and rear of the vehicle. These warning lights shall be visible from a distance of not less than 500 feet under normal atmospheric conditions at night.”
Based on the statute, the “orange flashing light” would be legal to use at the rear of the vehicle in your situation since it’s a shade of color between amber and red. I would encourage people to carry an extra set of “hazard” lights along with their roadside emergency kit. It’s always best to be prepared. If your vehicle quits running:
• Park your vehicle on the shoulder or as far from the main roadway as possible.
• Activate any hazard warning lights. 
• If you have flares or reflectors, place them 100 to 500 feet behind your vehicle on the right edge of the main road.
• Stay with your vehicle, if possible. If you must leave your vehicle, do not walk on the area of the highway reserved for vehicle traffic. This is illegal and extremely dangerous.
• Call local authorities as quickly as possible and advise them of your location and situation.
A portion of state statutes was used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.  (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).
 
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