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Spot the unsafe driver: It’s not a game


Jan. 19

It’s probably happened to you: You’re driving down the highway, obeying the speed limit and keeping an eye on your blind spots, when someone comes along and cuts you off without using their turn signal. Unfortunately, aggressive drivers are as much a part of driving as seat belts and stop signs. But you can learn to recognize aggressive drivers early on and deal with them safely. Here’s how.

Photo of a vehicle's speedometer
Photo: Speeders fear getting caught more than they fear a crash.
Here’s how to avoid them.​​

Knowing who is driving aggressively and who isn’t may seem obvious at first, but it’s worth it to know the signs.

Aggressive drivers usually display some or all of the following behaviors:

  • Ignoring turn signals and not using their own.
  • Ignoring traffic signals.
  • Speeding and tailgating.
  • Weaving in and out of traffic.
  • Making improper lane changes frequently and abruptly.
  • Passing on the shoulder.
  • Making hand and facial gestures.
  • Screaming, honking and flashing lights.

So once you spot an aggressive and potentially dangerous driver, what do you do? After all, a 2014 study by the Department of Public Safety Office of Traffic Safety found that high-risk drivers don’t believe speeding is extremely dangerous and that speeders fear getting caught more than they fear a crash. Which means the number one thing you need to do to stay safe from them is to do your best to get out of the way and disengage. Part of that is staying calm and remembering that reaching your destination safely is your goal.

Other ways to disengage from aggressive drivers:

  • Don’t challenge them.
  • Avoid eye contact.
  • Ignore their gestures and don’t return them.

Lastly, if it is safe to do so, take note of the description of the high-risk driver’s vehicle along with its license number and your location, then call that information in to 911.


 

Rolling back the miles: Odometer fraud and how to protect against it​


Jan. 12 
 
If you’ve ever bought a vehicle, you know how gratifying it can be to find the perfect deal. Maybe you’ve been keeping an eye on Craigslist for months in hopes that the perfect car will show up…and then one day, there it is! The exact make and model you want. It’s a little older than you’d prefer, but the mileage is pretty low. 
 
Photo of a vehicle's odometer.
Photo: ​Criminals can get a lot more money for a car when they roll back an odometer, but you get the short end of the stick. Read on to learn how to avoid odometer fraud.
 
  
Of course you ask about that when you meet with the owner—why wouldn’t you?—who assures you that it belonged to his dear departed mom, who really only drove it to church on Sundays.

P​erfect. You fork over the money and everything’s great…until the car starts having some very expensive problems—problems more in keeping with a car that has, say, 200,000 more miles on it.
It’s possible you’re the victim of odometer fraud.  In fact, odometer fraud is one of the most prevalent vehicle crimes, according to the Minnesota State Patrol’s Vehicle Crime Unit (VCU). It happens most often with vehicles that are 10 years old or older. That’s because, in the sale of a vehicle that old, odometer disclosure is no longer required. So criminals know they have a better chance of getting away with rolling back the odometer on a car that’s at least a decade old.

An odometer cluster (that’s the part of your dashboard that houses the odometer, the gas gauge, and the speedometer) sells for about $60 at a junk yard. So criminals (who often specialize in a particular make or even model of vehicle) can buy a car with, say, 330,000 miles on it for less than $1000, put in an odometer that reads 120,000 miles, and sell the car for $5000. Once they get it detailed and use their sob story to sell it to an unsuspecting buyer, they’ve made a tidy profit.

VCU investigators work on cases that involve as few as one car and as many as 50, following up on reports from individuals, Craigslist users, and dealerships alike. They work the case behind the scenes, then charge the criminal with either odometer fraud (a gross misdemeanor) or theft by swindle (a felony).

So how can you avoid being taken in by a criminal like this next time you buy a vehicle? First, insist on running the VIN through a vehicle history search engine yourself. Criminals will very nicely do it for you, but they can easily alter the report. Second, look carefully at the title. The name at the top should be the name of the person selling it to you. If it’s not, walk away. And last, ask the seller how long they’ve owned the car, then compare that to the date of issue on the title. If they say they’ve had it for seven years but the title was issued last year, this is not the car for you.

 

We're just saying, 224,000 people can't be wrong​


Jan. 9


Did you know that over 224,000 people follow the Department of Public Safety (DPS) on social media? If you’re not one of them, you
could change that right now. Our followers receive important DPS information through our multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts.
​​Screen shot image of DPS social media pages.
​Photo: Follow DPS's social media channels for timely
information to help keep you and your family safe.
 

DPS social media by the numbers
That breaks down to:
  • 67,805 Twitter followers for all DPS accounts.
  • 156,812 Facebook fans for all DPS accounts.
  • 3,400 Facebook posts for all accounts in 2016.
  • 3,000 Tweets for all accounts in 2016.
  • 253 followers on Instagram (an 87 percent improvement over this time last year).
  • Over 300 videos on our YouTube channel.
Nine DPS divisions have both Facebook pages and Twitter accounts – and the tweets aren’t just by humans. We have an explosives-detecting K-9 officer at the Minnesota Capitol who has her own Twitter account! 
 
What you’ll find on our social media channels
Here are some examples of the useful and timely information you can find on our social media channels that will fascinate you, help keep you safe, or both:
  • What are the latest updates on crimes? Follow the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
  • What’s the latest on fire and arson investigations? Follow the State Fire Marshal.
  • Want to see brand-new dash cam video? Follow the State Patrol.
  • Need tips on keeping your family safe during disasters? Follow Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
  • How do first responders use emerging technologies to help you? Follow Emergency Communication Networks.
  • What motorcycle training classes are available? Follow the Motorcycle Safety Center. 
  • Is your friendly wager on the big game legal? Follow Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement.
  • What kind of car seat will keep your child safest? Follow the Office of Traffic Safety.
And there’s so much more. We use our social media accounts to pass along information or ask for the public’s help that could help save someone’s life or solve a crime—think hit-and-run crashes, AMBER alerts, and Arson Hotline tips. 
 
How to find our social media channels
We have them all for you in one convenient page on our website. Feel free to click and binge-follow us!
 
 

When it comes to motorcycle safety, more is more

 
Jan. 5

The preliminary motorcycle safety numbers are in for 2016, and they show that 53 motorcyclists were killed last year. And although even one is too many, the new statistics are encouraging, considering the 61 motorcycle fatalities in 2015. That’s a 13 percent improvement. And 

Photo of motorcycle rider.
​Photo:  In 2016, 43 motorcyclists died in crashes. You can help avoid being a statistic by wearing brightly colored protective gear and a DOT-approved helmet. Read on for more riding safety suggestions.

 1980 saw the record for most motorcycle fatalities at 121, making 2016 a 56 percent improvement over that year.

T
he Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center recommends such safety measures as brightly-colored protective gear and DOT-approved helmets. Thirty-one riders killed in 2016 were not wearing a helmet, compared to the 18 who were. So as a motorcyclist, you can improve your odds on the road by wearing a helmet. You can also focus on the road and keep your speed in check. You can maintain a three-second following distance, and always avoid drinking and riding. 
 
Delving further into the numbers can help us understand the need for training. In 2016, 11 of the crashes happened while motorcyclists were negotiating a curve, and 17 involved motorcycles only, so operator error was likely involved in those crashes.
 
In the end, it’s important that riders be prepared for inattentive driving and always ride within their skill set – and if you ever want to expand that skill set, consider taking one of the many motorcycle training courses around the state, which are available for all levels from basic to expert. They take place from April through September, with some running into October. Consider taking a new one every couple of years to dust off your skills.
 
Lastly, you can spread the word to your motorist friends to help prevent motorcycle deaths by looking twice for motorcycles before entering a roadway or changing lanes. Ask them to give you and your fellow motorcyclists room, check their blind spots, pay attention and drive at safe speeds.
 
By working together and practicing motorcycle safety, we can make 2017 the safest year yet for motorcyclists in Minnesota.​​​​​​​​​​
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