When can we pull to the shoulder?

The in basket: Pemco Insurance raised my eyebrows with a short item in its January newsletter, Perspective, which asserted that it is illegal to pull to the shoulder to use a cell phone, read a map, discipline children, change
drivers or take a bathroom break (??).
That struck me as a peculiar and contradictory piece of advice from an insurance company, since we often are encouraged not to do those things while driving.


The in basket: Pemco Insurance raised my eyebrows with a short item in its January newsletter, Perspective, which asserted that it is illegal to pull to the shoulder to use a cell phone, read a map, discipline children, change
drivers or take a bathroom break (??).
I called the Perspective editor, who said he was flattered to learn someone read it. He said he based the piece on RCW 47.52.120, which applies to limited access highways. It said we’re not supposed to” stop or park any vehicle or equipment within the right of way of such facility, including the shoulders thereof, except at points specially provided therefor, and to make only such use of such
specially provided stopping or parking points as is permitted by the
designation thereof.” It exempted authorized emergency vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, assistance vans, or to vehicles stopped for emergency causes or
equipment failures.
That struck me as a peculiar and contradictory piece of advice, since we often are encouraged not to do those things while driving. I asked my law enforcement contacts if this could possibly be right.
The out basket: Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department called the article “understandable” as the law requires that parking on the shoulder of a limited access facility be kept to a very bare minimum. “You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that vehicles left on the shoulders of these types of roads are marked or ‘tagged’ pretty quickly, by law enforcement, for removal,” he said.
But, he continued, “Briefly stopping on the shoulder has become a common practice for a variety of reasons: to adjust driver’s position or equipment, change drivers, handle radio / compact disc issues, attend to children in the rear seat, talk on cell phones, text messaging, etc. As long as the stopped vehicle is not blocking the roadway, common sense prevails: law enforcement would rather a driver pull over to the shoulder and briefly stop for these reasons than operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner, since a driver’s attention would be divided between operating the vehicle and the secondary task at hand.”
He says drivers should choose a spot where your car can be well off the road, visible to approaching drivers for a long way, and where pulling back onto the highway can be done safely. Activating one’s flashers is a good idea, as is raising the hood if car trouble is what caused you to pull over, he added. He admitted he didn’t know where “a point specifically provided” to pull over might be.
Trooper Brian George agreed with Scott. “The Washington State Patrol would encourage drivers to pull to the shoulder when they are unable to focus their full attention to driving.” he said. “It is much safer for a driver to stop on the shoulder and answer the phone, look for a fallen CD, read a map or eat then to continue to travel while distracted.” 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

Please enter the word MILK here: