Tag Archives: Traffic law

Trooper tackles left-lane ‘camping’ head on

Raise your hand if you’ve found yourself in this situation: cruising down the highway, you come upon a car camping out in the left lane, the driver seemingly oblivious to his responsibility to move into the right lane of traffic.

I think we’ve all been there, staring at the bumper of a clueless motorist (And maybe some of us can admit that we, too, have forgotten to get over).

But here’s the bottom line: left lane camping is illegal.

Troopers do pull over motorists for hanging out in the left lane. They’re often met with this answer: “I didn’t realize it was against the law.”

The state law is quite clear. RCW 46.61.100, section 4 states “It is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.”

Here’s the rules, the state patrol said in a press release:

Washington State’s Keep Right Law requires all vehicles stay to the right except to pass and the left lane is used primarily as a passing lane when there are two or more lanes moving in the same direction.  All vehicles towing trailers or vehicles over 10,000 pounds are prohibited from using the left lane when there are three or more lanes moving in the same direction.

“We understand it can be frustrating for drivers when you have other motorists camped out in the left lane,” said WSP Captain Ron Rupke, District 5 commander.  “But this also doesn’t mean motorists can drive in an aggressive manner or use the left lane to speed.”

Slower moving vehicles traveling in the left lane create unsafe conditions which can include:
•  Causing other drivers to make dangerous passes on the right side.
•  Frustration with the left lane drivers leading to aggressive driving.
•  Slower response time for emergency vehicles responding to collisions or calls for service.

Allowing faster moving traffic to pass is always the best choice.  Frustrated drivers that travel in an aggressive manner often choose to weave in and out of cars that travel “too slow” by their standards.  Remember that if a driver chooses to exceed the speed limit in the left lane it is much easier for troopers to stop them for the violation if the slower moving vehicles are not in the left lane.

The law for left lane travel (RCW 46.61.100 – Keep right except for passing) states it is a traffic infraction to drive continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway when it impedes the flow of other traffic.  The left lane does not include high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes.  The fine for failure to keep right except for passing is $124.

When there are three or more lanes moving in the same direction, additional restrictions are placed upon all vehicles towing trailers or vehicles over 10,000 pounds.  These vehicles are prohibited from using the left lane except to prepare for a left turn at an intersection or exit ramp.  These restrictions do not apply to a vehicle using an HOV lane.  The HOV lane is not considered the left-hand lane of a roadway.  The fine for illegal use of the left lane is $124.

On certain stretches of interstate freeways and state highways, speed limits are posted for passenger cars and trucks.  The word “trucks” on signs giving notice to maximum speed limits means vehicles over 10,000 pounds and all vehicles in combination.  This restriction applies to all vehicles towing a trailer regardless of the size of vehicle or trailer (RCW 46.61.410).  Fines for speeding are based on miles per hour over the posted speed limit.

Flashing your headlights: a first amendment right? (Part 1)

Blogger’s Note: When a Florida man flashed his headlights to warn oncoming motorists of an upcoming speed trap, he was pulled over and ticketed. He’s taken the fight to court, where he’s filed a class-action lawsuit alleging his free speech rights were violated.

I’ve sought the perspective of two locals — Bremerton defense attorney Stan Glisson and Port Orchard top cop Al Townsend — to give us their take on this unusual but intriguing case. Glisson’s essay will run today while Townsend’s commentary will appear here Saturday. Be sure to read up on the case first

A car passes a hazard on a roadway; maybe a downed tree, maybe an animal in the road, maybe a police speed trap. The driver flashes their headlights as they approach oncoming traffic, to warn them of the peril ahead. The practice has existed as long as I have been driving, usually to warn of a parked police officer running their radar.

It is no surprise that some police officers disapprove of the practice. But in Florida, that disapproval commonly went one step further to ticketing the drivers for flashing their headlights. Police alleged basically that the headlight flashing is a distraction to others, but the perception is that the citations were issued as retribution for disrupting their speed trap.

One Florida man who saw a speed trap and flashed his lights as a warning at other drivers got such a ticket. He is now suing the state, arguing that flashing headlights is a form of communication, a type of ‘speech’ protected by our first amendment. Interestingly, since the lawsuit, Florida police have been instructed to discontinue the practice of issuing such tickets.

Protected speech takes as many forms as we have imagination. It’s one thing to tell a friend you saw a speed trap. It’s another to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded theater. But free speech contains almost everything in between.

The idea of free speech is not always easy to swallow. It is completely fair to think that speeders should get caught and cited, and anyone trying to warn them is obstructing good police work. But if we believe in free speech in this country, it means protecting all speech. The most important speech to protect is the unpopular; it needs protection the most. We are free to talk to each other about what the government is doing, whether war strategy, economic policy, or police activity. The right to speak out against the government was arguably the most important right to our founding fathers, hence its prominent position in the Bill of Rights. The freedom we enjoy to speak our minds has to extend to warnings about speed traps, to literature, to profanity, and yes, on occasion to pasties on baristas.

Where the Florida law suit will end up is anyone’s guess. It speaks volumes that the police have stopped issuing these tickets. If you see a speed trap and want to warn other drivers, flash those lights. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too. We have to respect your decision about what you choose to say or not to say and every idea, popular or not, must be allowed to be heard. As Atticus Finch said, the one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience. So do as your conscience tells you. As for me, I’ll keep flashing my lights.

Stan Glisson is an attorney in Bremerton with the firm Glisson, Witt and Altman. Their firm mainly handles DUI and misdemeanor defense, as well as felony defense and civil cases. Glisson earned his law degree at the University of Washington, has worked as a Kitsap County deputy prosecutor, and as a Kitsap and Snohomish defense attorney before entering private practice.