Ask a Trooper: May a person without a driver’s license start a vehicle?

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“ASK A TROOPER” by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol

Question: May a new driver with a permit start a vehicle without supervision? Or is this act considered operating a vehicle?

Answer: In almost 18 years of law enforcement, 17 of those with the Minnesota State Patrol, that is the first time I’ve been asked that question. Researching the laws in the Minnesota State Statutes, here is what I found:

M.S.S. defines “driver” as “every person, who drives or is in actual physical control of a motor vehicle.” Obviously in Minnesota, a driver’s license is required to operate the type of vehicle that your license class applies to. Due to incidents where people have been arrested for “driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” there is case law talking about “driving, operating and physical control.”

Physical control is defined as: “Being in a position to exercise dominion or control over the vehicle. Thus a person is in physical control of a vehicle if they have the means to initiate any movement of that vehicle and they are in close proximity to the operating controls of the vehicle.”

Based on that, a person with an instruction permit would not be legally able to start a vehicle unless under the supervision of a parent, guardian or other licensed driver 21 or older occupying the front passenger seat.

A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Jesse Grabow, Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at [email protected])


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