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Minnesota Law Blog

Why all Minnesota drivers should adopt the zipper merge

If you've ever driven through road construction in Minnesota, you know this familiar sight: cars lined up in a single lane, bumper-to-bumper, miles ahead of a merge. Dare to drive in the open lane, zooming ahead of the line, and you'll likely be met with honks and glares. Yet they're actually the ones in the wrong.

While lining up may seem "Minnesota nice," it can cause major traffic jams and safety issues. Instead, drivers should adopt the zipper merge.

Oil refinery explosion highlights dangers of industrial work

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When industrial explosions happen, it's often without warning - and without an obvious cause, at least initially. An in-depth investigation usually uncovers some failure at some level of the vast industrial infrastructure.

In the case of the Husky oil refinery explosion that shook the Duluth-Superior area last April, it appears to have been an equipment failure. A preliminary report from the official investigation faults a worn valve. Weakened by wear-and-tear, the valve allowed air to flow backward and mix with volatile hydrocarbons, sparking an explosion. The subsequent blaze took firefighters nearly eight hours to extinguish.

Safe driving tips for summer road construction

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Summer in Minnesota brings countless delights: beautiful weather, sparkling lakes, twilight until 10 p.m., gardens bursting with blooms. But there are also downsides. Chief among them: Road construction.

The short season means roads are torn up seemingly everywhere you turn. As a driver, it can be frustrating to deal with lane closures, detours and delays. But there are also major safety concerns at play for drivers and construction workers alike.

Why do traffic deaths spike during the summer months?

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As a Minnesotan, you'd think most serious car accidents happen in the winter, when the roads are fraught with ice and snow and darkness descends at 5 pm. Winter driving often feels like a life-or-death endeavor. Nearly every driver who's wintered here knows that harrowing feeling when you're struggling to see the centerline and can barely make out the taillights ahead of you in subzero white-out conditions.

Surprisingly, however, more fatalities happen on our roads in the warmer months. From May through October, the fatal accident rate in Minnesota is 1.7 times higher than November through April, according to data from 2010 to 2015.

Beware this rare yet deadly danger lurking in freshwater lakes

It sounds like something out of a horror movie: A young child goes swimming in a Minnesota lake. The water is warm and inviting; it's the height of summer. At some point, perhaps while splashing around or doing cannonballs off the dock, a tiny amount of water goes up the child's nose. A week later, he's dead.

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In recent years, at least two children suffered that horrific fate after swimming in Stillwater's popular Lily Lake. The culprit? Naegleria fowleri - an amoeba that lives in freshwater lakes and rivers.

Bankruptcy and medical debt

With the passing of the Affordable Care Act, many people who had previously been unable to obtain insurance now enjoy the benefits of medical coverage. Unfortunately, the new act did little to eliminate a growing problem in the country which is declaring bankruptcy for medical debt. In a 2013 study performed by NerWallet Health, the soon to be number one cause related to bankruptcy filings is going to be related to unpaid medical bills surpassing previous primary causes of credit card and mortgage debt. 

 

Hands-free phone bill will have to wait another year

Talking on a cellphone while driving is dangerous – and potentially deadly. In recent years, the number of drivers who use smartphones behind the wheel has steadily risen, with 1 out of every 4 crashes attributable to distracted driving. It’s a public safety issue of epidemic proportions.

For proponents of a bill that would make it illegal in Minnesota to talk on a handheld phone while driving, this year’s legislative session was looking hopeful. The bill was set to move forward with widespread bipartisan support. The governor promised he would sign it into law once it hit his desk. And numerous organizations across the state – including the Minnesota State Patrol and other law enforcement agencies – backed the bill.

Report sheds light on why so many workers are killed on the job

The statistics are staggering. On average, 150 people across the country die every day from work-related accidents, injuries and illnesses. In 2016 alone, more than 5,000 people were killed on the job – and another 50,000 died from occupational illnesses. Many of those deaths were preventable.

A recent report issued by the AFL-CIO sheds light on what contributes to job-related fatalities. Examining data from 2016, the report highlights two key areas of focus that must be addressed to reduce fatalities: Workplace violence and chemical exposure.

For Minnesota firefighters, job-related PTSD takes a big toll

It takes a special calling to work as a firefighter. You often have to put your own life on the line to save others. While you make a tremendous impact on those lives, the job also makes an impact on you. The death and destruction you encounter on a near-daily basis can take a toll on your mental health.

It's a bigger deal than most people realize

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