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ASK A TROOPER: There is no rule about ball in hitch
ASK A TROOPER

ASK A TROOPER: There is no rule about ball in hitch

From the COLLECTION: Ask a Trooper series
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Sgt. Troy Christianson mug

Sgt. Troy Christianson of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: What is the legal following distance? What can I do when someone is following too close behind me? Isn’t there a rule of so many vehicle lengths for miles per hour to use as a guide?

Answer: The only law regarding following distance pertains to vehicles pulling trailers. This includes trucks as well as semi-truck tractors with trailers. They must maintain a minimum distance of 500 feet.

While state law does not require a specific distance for vehicles not pulling trailers, it does say that you shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the conditions of the highway.

We recommend what’s called the 3-second-plus following distance rule. Watch the vehicle in front of you. When that vehicle gets past an object such as a sign, pole, bridge, etc., then count off three seconds. You should not arrive at that spot sooner than your count to three. If you do, then you are following too close! Also, you must add one second for every hazard that exists. Hazards include but are not limited to heavy traffic, rain, snow, fog, driving into the sun, etc. In some cases you might have to allow six, seven seconds (or even more) to be safe because of existing hazards.

Learn how to recognize any kind of hazard while you are driving out there, and practice the 3-second (plus) following rule. If everyone were to follow this simple rule, many crashes that cause serious injuries and or death could be prevented.

Check your mirrors every 3 to 5 seconds so you know what is going around you. While we cannot control the vehicles around us, we can control our own driving habits.

Question: I was recently told that I could not keep the trailer ball mount attached to the receiver of the vehicle when it is not actually hooked up to a trailer. Is this in fact true?

Answer: There is not a law in Minnesota that prohibits leaving a ball hitch in the receiver when not pulling a trailer. I do recommend that you remove your receiver hitch when it is not in use as it can cause injury if you or others walk into it. There is also an increase in damage to vehicles that collide with a trailer hitch as it may puncture the front grill, hood and radiator area.

There are laws that prohibit obstructing the rear license plate, this includes a ball that is attached to the hitch. The law also requires that the ball hitch be of sufficient strength to control and support the weight of a trailer and must be a device approved by the commissioner of public safety.

The law also requires that your cargo is properly secured. It is important to frequently inspect your trailer, hitch, safety chains and lights when traveling.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848. (Or reach him at, Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us)

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