Do automobiles really need a bumper? Yes

Published 9:57 am Friday, April 18, 2014

Ask a Trooper by Jacalyn Sticha

Q. Can I get by without a bumper?

A. The laws state that we must have rear and front bumpers.

Jacalyn Sticha

Jacalyn Sticha

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“MSS 169.73 Bumper Height: All private passenger vehicles shall be equipped with  front and rear bumpers, except that pickup  trucks and vans shall be equipped with front bumpers and with either rear bumpers or reflectors.”

Do not let that pickup truck and van exception fool you, however. The statute further states,  “No person shall operate a  private passenger vehicle that: (a) was originally equipped with bumpers as standard equipment, unless the vehicle is equipped with bumpers equal to the original equipment.”

Personal passenger vehicles are not manufactured without front and rear bumpers . If the equipment is modified, neither the height of the vehicle nor the bumper can vary more than six inches from the original.

A personal passenger vehicle or station wagon bumper must not exceed 20 inches. Four-wheel drive multipurpose type vehicles, vans (three-quarter ton or less) and pickups (three-quarter ton or less) have the maximum bumper height of 25 inches. A bumper height measurement is taken from the bottom of the main bumper to the ground.

Vehicles beyond personal passenger vehicles, vans and pickups (over three-quarter  ton) must meet the rear-end protection requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier  Regulations Code of  Federal Regulations (Title 49, Section 393.86). This information can be found at

It is often forgotten that bumpers are safety equipment; they absorb and transfer force, as well as block a second vehicle intrusion beneath.

For the full details go to and search statute 169.73.


Question: In my defensive driving class recently, the instructor talked about trains and rail safety, and living in rural Minnesota I am wondering if you can cover this topic?

A. Collisions with trains are mostly preventable; however, between 2009 and 2012, there were 143 crashes at public roadway-rail crossings in Minnesota.  Failure to yield the right-of-way and disregard for traffic control devices are cited as the most common factors contributing to these collisions.

At 50 mph, it takes a fully loaded freight train 1.5 miles to come to a full stop. By the time the train engineer sees a vehicle or pedestrian on the tracks, it is often too late. Because of their size, approaching trains appear to be traveling at a slower speed than they actually are.

Drivers should always yield the right-of-way to trains at highway-rail crossings and never drive around lowered or lowering gates or race a train to the crossing — it is illegal and deadly.

When a collision between a motor vehicle and a train does occur there is an 11 times greater chance of death or serious injury when compared with a crash not involving a train.

Expect a train on the tracks at any time; they do not follow set schedules. If you do get stuck or stalled on train tracks, immediately get out of your vehicle and move clear of the tracks and then call 911.

Bicyclists and pedestrians should heed these safety tips, as well, and only cross railroad tracks in designated areas. Finally, please spread the word to your family and friends that walking on the railroad tracks is illegal and dangerous, it is trespassing.


Q. Is there a reason that you (Minnesota State Patrol) give out so many speeding tickets? Wouldn’t focusing on other things be more productive?

A. Speeding is not benign — it puts every motorist on the road at risk. The
potential for losing control of the vehicle grows as your speed increases, as well as increasing stopping distance and reducing the reaction time needed for crash avoidance. I have written extensively about speed being force; the greater the speed the greater the force and, thus, the greater the damage to our bodies and property.

Chronic speeders are often the aggressive driver. This driver often displays specific behaviors: ignoring or fudging traffic signals/signs, tailgating aggressively, improperly or abruptly changing lanes and passing on the right.

Pulling over speeding drivers does address our problems with the aggressive drivers. Speeding impacts us all, increasing crashes and their severity, also, damaging the driving experience. Slow down, move back, pay attention and buckle up — a recipe we all need to follow and the results will be lives saved and injuries avoided!

Statewide speed weeks, with extra patrols, will be conducted in June and July this year. If you do have a heavy foot, your wallet will likely be lightened up. A speed violation is typically at least $120 and motorists stopped for traveling at 20 mph over the speed limit face double the fine. You will lose your license if traveling 100 mph plus.


Jacalyn Sticha is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.