From: Sgt. Curt S. Mowers
Minnesota State Patrol
Following too closely
Question: One thing that bothers me while driving is when a faster vehicle comes up close behind, but can’t get past me due to oncoming traffic, a no-passing zone, etc. Sometimes, to get the guy off my bumper, I look for a right-turn lane or a large driveway on the road ahead - then signal, move to the right and pretend that’s where I’m turning. The faster vehicle goes ahead of me, then, I pull back onto the road and go on my way without feeling pressured. Occasionally when I’ve had a passenger, I’ve gotten quizzical looks, like: “What are you doing?” Once my passenger even commented that this wasn’t the way the right-turn lanes are supposed to be used. Maybe not, but is there anything wrong or illegal about what I do?
Answer: If you pull over and they go past you, and you were not stopped yet and the lane is clear, then technically, I suppose that you can signal and go back out into the lane. Be very careful and remember that generally, turn lanes and shoulders are not driving lanes. If you get in a crash, you could be charged with a few different things, including (but not limited to) unsafe change of course.
Drivers that follow too closely are dangerous drivers. They also are aggressive drivers. If you are being followed too closely, you basically have two options. First, slow down a bit and give that close-follower a chance to pass. If they don’t pass within a short or reasonable amount of time (your discretion), then you need to just pull over and stop on the shoulder (not in a turn lane or driving lane like a bypass lane) and let that aggressive driver pass you. Let the driver get ahead of you before coming back out onto the roadway, and don’t forget to look (checking your mirrors too) and signal before coming back into your lane of traffic.
If you are following another vehicle, the general rule taught nationwide is to allow at least three seconds minimum between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. A majority of drivers do follow too closely on a regular basis. Add a second for each condition that exists that you can’t control (e.g., lighting, weather, road, traffic, etc.). We all have the responsibility to drive safely within the existing conditions and many drivers don’t. This is all especially critical in winter weather and road conditions. Thanks for asking.