Ask A Trooper: You’ve left the roadway — what comes next?

Published 5:30 pm Friday, January 7, 2022

By Sgt. Troy Christianson

Question: My wife slid off the state highway this morning. She came to a stop in the median ditch, unhurt but rattled — only needing to be pulled out. When she called me I told her to call the State Patrol and stay in the car until you arrived. What is the right procedure to follow when a driver ends up stuck in the ditch? Do you contact the towing company or is that the responsibility of the stuck driver?

Answer: First of all, I am glad she is all right. Secondly, thank you for the email as this is a great topic. Minnesota State Troopers have responded to approximately 6,916 vehicles that have slid off the highway in 2021 and needed assistance. This does not include crashes, motorist assists and other calls for service.

If you slide off the highway, the first thing a person should do is assess the situation.

• Is anyone injured? If so, call “911” immediately.

• Are you in a safe or dangerous location? Generally, it is best to stay in your vehicle as it will offer you some protection.

• Is your vehicle partially on the highway in the traffic lane? Are you on the bad side of a hill or curve? If so, you and your occupants might be safer leaving the vehicle. However, do not stand on the highway.  Find a location that is safe and far off the highway.

After it is safe and reasonable, please report the incident as soon as possible. Be prepared to give your location and a brief description of what happened.

If you are stuck in snow, mud or for whatever reason, you can call a tow truck or ask the dispatcher to have them send one. If you do call a tow, tell the appropriate law enforcement agency (State Patrol/sheriff/police) to help prevent doubling up and keeping responding resources available for others.

State Troopers and other law enforcement agencies will help with traffic control and provide scene safety as the tow truck operators go to work. Even for a vehicle breakdown or flat tire, call in and we will do our best to respond and help keep everyone safe.

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)