Troy Christianson

More than 1,600 crashes in 2019 involved animals including cattle

Ask A Trooper

Question: My neighbor’s cattle are always out. They don’t take care of their fence and they are getting into my yard. I can deal with that, but my real concern is the highway we live along. I’m worried someone is going to hit a cow and get hurt or something worse. There must be a law about this.

Answer: This is concerning as this type of activity could lead to a crash resulting in life-changing injuries. In 2019 Minnesota had 1,632 crashes involving animals. While most of those were deer, a significant number of the crashes involved cattle.

Throughout my career, I’ve responded to several crashes involving cattle, horses, donkeys, mules, sheep, swine, goats and much more. A vehicle running into (and sometimes under) a 1,000- to 2,000-pound animal can quickly turn a sedan into a convertible. Many of these crashes resulted in serious injuries and occasionally something worse.

To answer your question, yes, there is a law. Minnesota State Statute 346.16 addresses livestock “running at large.” The law states that civil action can also be taken. The owner of the animal is responsible for keeping it fenced in and safely off public roadways. 

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.

Question I was wondering if you could address what someone, such as my spouse should do if needing to call 911 and cannot speak or type as both of those abilities are impaired. We’ve been thinking about getting a medical alert system.

Answer: I would agree that a medical alert device might be the best option in this type of situation. There are different options, and some of them will alert family members at another location who could then contact the 9-1-1 call center in the jurisdiction where the person in distress lives to ensure help is on the way.

The problem with the medical alert devices is that there is typically a single address associated with them, so if this person was not at home when pressing their help button, it may not be helpful. 

For your situation, I would recommend reaching out to the 9-1-1 call center manager that would receive the call in your jurisdiction. The computer-aided dispatch system premise file database might be able to flag a phone number, or provide other helpful information with an address that will provide background information to alert the 9-1-1 call taker if they receive a call with an open line from a specific number. This would assume you are normally at home, and the person who is not able to speak or text uses a single wireless phone.  

From my experience, 9-1-1 call centers are very willing to work with citizens within their jurisdiction who feel they need additional support when a 9-1-1 call is placed and someone is not able to communicate. 

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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