The in basket: Years ago, before I began writing Road Warrior, I used to cut across the white tapering lines, called gore lines, that converge as one enters a freeway on an on-ramp. I never was stopped, and I didn’t know it was illegal until research for the column after its 1996 inception set me straight.
I have since reported its illegality numerous times, saying it’s considered driving off the roadway.
Early in March, Q13 television mentioned it in its morning newscast, but it said the penalty is $411. Most infractions carry a $124 fine. I asked if Q13 was correct.
The out basket: Yes, says Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the state patrol office in Bremerton. It’s considered crossing a physical barrier, and is penalized under the following state law, RCW 46.61.150, driving on divided highways:
“Whenever any highway has been divided into two or more roadways by leaving an intervening space or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing section or by a median island not less than eighteen inches wide formed either by solid yellow pavement markings or by a yellow crosshatching between two solid yellow lines … every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers.”
I might have known that would be the relevant law. This is not the first instance in which it has been interpreted to mean the opposite of what the words say.
As odd as it seems for a painted stripe to be deemed a physical barrier, it’s no odder than interpreting the same law to mean the area between double yellow lines is not an “intervening space.”
That long-time interpretation allows drivers to turn left across double yellow lines. It’s lucky it does or tens of thousands of Washington state drivers wouldn’t be able legally to turn into their own driveways. But despite the seemingly contrary meaning of the words, the law remains unchanged.
Krista says it’s the width of the gore lines that make them a physical barrier. They are wider than other painted stripes. It still seems to me that a physical barrier really should have greater height than a painted line does.
In the real world, a trooper can opt for the $411 physical barrier ticket, or a $124 citation for unsafe lane change or improper lane travel, she said. She has written it both ways, and on occasion simply warned a driver who has done it.
It often depends on how heavy traffic is, whether other drivers were endangered or the driver has been stopped for it before, she said.
She also said that turning left across the areas designated in the law, with cross-hatching or a solid 18-inch painted area, also carry the $411 penalty.
Remember this whenever you enter or leave a freeway, or in the daily backup on southbound Highway 3 in Bremerton, where drivers entering from Loxie Eagans Boulevard regularly cross the gore line to get to an opening in the backup in the through lanes.
I also asked about the cross-hatching at the inside of the Highway 166 roundabout in Port Orchard, where wear shows that many drivers encroach into it. That would be a lane travel violation ($124) if a ticket were written, since the crosshatching doesn’t separate lanes, Krista said.