Monthly Archives: April 2010

Pavement losing its color at Burley-Olalla

The in basket: As I drove north on Highway 16 past the new Burley-Olalla Road interchange recently, i thought the wheel paths in the pavement had lost more of their black coloration than I would have expected. The asphalt looked more like what I see on aging parts of I-5, but without the obvious rutting and the loud tire noise. 

I asked if the asphalt wasn’t wearing well.

The out basket: The project engineer for the interchange project, Brenden Clarke, says the loss of color is normal.

“It is typical for asphalt pavement to fade to gray in about nine months,” he said. “The pavement is actually wearing well.”

Of right/left turn conflicts & speed limit signs


The in basket: Mark Powell of Poulsbo e-mailed a pair of unrelated questions to the Road Warrior.

He first asked about turns onto two-lane highways, using as an example the intersection of Highway 305, Forest Rock Lane and Seventh Avenue in Poulsbo. He asked whether a driver wanting to turn right on a red light from Forest Rock onto Highway 305 needs to wait for the left-turners coming from Seventh, who have a green light.
“While trying to turn RIGHT on RED most drivers wait for all vehicles to complete the LEFT. My contention is they are required to turn into the LEFT lane, therefore allowing an unimpeded RIGHT on RED. Am I correct?

“Secondly,” he asked, “when am I allowed or required to change speeds? I think I remember reading recently that if (for example) you are driving in a zone with a 35 mph speed limit and see a sign increasing the speed limit to 40, you may increase prior to actually passing the 40 mph sign.

“I have a daughter in drivers education and I want to make sure of my answers and assistance,” he said. 

The out basket: Turners onto a multi-lane highway are required to use the closest available lane of the highway being entered, so, yes, the left turners from Seventh Avenue are required to use the inside lane of Highway 305 northbound. That would leave the outside lane available for right turns from Forest Rock while the opposing left turners are in motion. 

I must assume right turners who wait for all left turners to go by are simply being careful and don’t trust the left turners to not swing wide and endanger them.

For turns onto a two-lane highway, the traffic with a stop sign or red light must yield to traffic with a green light, which might condition the Forest Rock right turners to defer to oncoming left turners even though the two lanes of Highway 305 theoretically provide room for both streams. 

As for when speed zones begin, officially it is at the speed limit sign, not before. Just as drivers don’t have to slow down to the lower speed when the speed limit drops until they pass the sign showing the lower speed limit, they are not entitled to increase to the higher speed until they have passed the sign showing it.

As a practical matter, though, citations for five over the speed limit are quite rare, so I wouldn’t expect it to matter whether a driver speeds up in the short distance between when the sign with the higher speed limit becomes visible and the car passes the sign. 

I would regard a speed enforcement in such a transition zone to be predatory policing, but I suppose it might happen. Of course, if you’re already way over the speed limit in the zone you’re entering, you’d be fair game.

Luoto/Highway 3 on-ramp said site of turning conflicts

The in basket: Two readers have told me there is a problem with westbound drivers on Highway 308 (Luoto Road) ignoring the Yield signs as they arc onto the northbound on-ramp to Highway 3 and endangering left turners, who have the right of way.

Over a year ago, retired Dr. Robert L. Davis, who tells me he founded the emergency room at Harrison Hospital back in 1976, called to say the Yield sign, which requires right turners entering that on-ramp to yield to left turners, was obscured by tree limbs. 

Then last August, after the visibility was improved and a second Yield sign was added, he called again to say, “The other day a guy just about wiped me out at the corner. The signs aren’t doing any good, they need a stop sign there.” 

Walt Barrett of Poulsbo told me something similar at a recent social event, saying right turners don’t have to slow down much to make the corner and many don’t. He wondered who would be at fault if there were a collision between right and left turners onto that ramp. 

The out basket: State Trooper Krista Hedstrom says the driver who passed the Yield sign without yielding and then collided with a left turner would be at fault, barring some egregious contributing factor by the left turner, like not having headlights on at night.

My experience is that most freeway on-ramps are wide enough that there is room to dodge another car even if its driver was careless and in violation of the Yield sign. And the inconvenience at and after collision even if one is in the right makes it worth doing.

Steve Bennett, traffic operations engineer for the state’s Olympic Region, said the second Yield sign actually was supposed to be a “Yield Ahead” sign and they will change it. Both are visible simultaneously, so I can’t imagine that makes much difference.

Krista says there are not many, if any, collisions at that spot due to failure to yield, nor do they get many complaints about collisions narrowly avoided there. So an unusual step like replacing the Yield signs with a stop sign is all the more unlikely.

They will cite for failure to yield when they see it, though, she said.

State ‘Move Over’ law to get tougher


The in basket: Linda Wilson sent along an e-mail she recently received that contends that California has just passed a “Move Over” law that can bring a $754 ticket for not moving to the left to give room to police or other emergency vehicles on the roadside with their flashing lights working.

If you can’t move left, you have to slow to 20 miles per hour, the e-mail said. It claims that “a friend’s son” got such a ticket recently.

He slowed down to pass two patrol cars on the shoulder “but did not move into the other lane,” went the story. “The second police car immediately pulled him over and gave him a ticket.”

The infraction supposedly counts three points against your  driving record and requires a mandatory court appearance, it said.

Finally, it listed a Web site that supposedly confirmed it all as true. That is

The out basket: It is not a true story, and makes the urban legend Web sites as a hoax.

But it’s a timely one for those of us in Washington state, which also has a Move Over law. The Legislature has just upped the ante substantially for not making an effort to give emergency vehicles on the shoulder a wide berth. In some circumstances, the penalty could be a lot more than $754.

First, about the e-mail. California has had a Move Over law since 2007, and this year just added state highway department vehicles to those that require other drivers to move over or slow down when they see the emergency lights in use. 

The fine is $50 or less. Though local add-ons can increase that, it wouldn’t come to anything near $754. 

The California law merely requires a reasonable speed for conditions. The one in Texas may include the 20 mph requirement to stay in the closest lane to the emergency.

The site merely confirms the existence of Move Over laws in most states, not the spurious claims about California.

As for the changes in Washington state, which become effective next Jan. 1, they specify that the emergency zone where the law is effective is within 200 feet on either side of a stationery emergency vehicle on the shoulder with lights flashing. That wasn’t defined in the original law.

There is no 20 mph requirement, but it doubles the fine for exceeding the speed limit past such a vehicle in any lane. My state patrol contact, Trooper Krista Hedstrom, isn’t sure what the fine or fines to be doubled will be. It probably will vary with how far over the speed limit the driver is traveling.

But if the driver is found to actually endanger emergency personnel on the roadside, it can be cited as the gross misdemeanor of reckless endangerment, with the potential for a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, plus a 60-day license suspension. Even without hiring a lawyer to fight it, such a citation could cost into the thousands.

“The bill also requires the state (within existing resources) to do education regarding the new law in the 90 days after the bill becomes effective,”  Krista said.  

“WSP Government and Media Relations will be working the next few months on a plan to get this message out come January, which will probably include some sort of statewide press event and a media plan.”

Should bicyclists have to be licensed?


The in basket: Three readers over the past year – Richard Burke and Ann Sencerbox of Bainbridge Island, and Chuck Fisher, have called to advocate the licensing of bicycles and bicyclists.

They cited various justifications, which boiled down to: 

– Raising money for bike lane improvements and sharing in the cost of  

maintaining roads.

– Helping identify unconscious bicyclists after an accident if there is no ID on the person.

– Better educating bicyclists about the rules of the road and the fact that they are required to obey nearly all those that motorists do.

– Helping in recovery of stolen bicycles.

– Recognizing that motorcyclists and bicyclists face similar hazards on the roads, so requiring the same kind of license endorsements for both.

Anne said, “If you have ever driven the waterfront in Seattle at commuter time, it’s really a zoo, then you have the bicyclists who pass on the right between parked cars…

“They just disappear into the crowd,” she said. “There is no way you can identify them, but if there was a nominal fee for a license, it might help with those who had so much distain for automobiles.” 

Chuck also said he recalls that a bicycle license was required when he was a kid, decades ago, in Bremerton’s Eastpark housing project. 

“Ours were green and white and maybe six inches from corner to corner and we could have it anywhere on the bicycles,” he said. 

Ann said her husband recalls the same thing from when he was a child.

The out basket: Last things first, I also recall bicycle licenses, but I think they were novelties offered by cereal companies, not a legal requirement. Do any readers have memories along these lines? 

There’s no shortage of discussion of licensing bicycles on the Internet. Just Google “licensing bicycles” and you can read pros and cons for hours, submitted from all over the country.

In the rare places where they exist, they appear to be issued by cities.

The cons generally contend such a law would be unenforceable and that most bicyclists would ignore it.. 

Other con arguments are:

– Bicyclists already pay their share with property and other taxes while causing very little wear on the roadways.

– Bicycle use shouldn’t be discouraged by such a fee, as riders reduce road wear, fuel consumption and air pollution.

– A nominal fee would be lucky to cover the costs of collecting it and contribute nothing for bike lanes or anything else, 

– Bicyclists have more in common with pedestrians than any kind of motor vehicle.

The cleverest take on this issue that I found online came from self-described 

“cranky curmudgeon” Isaac Laquedem in Portland, Ore., who proposed that bikers be required to wear city-issued bright yellow bike jackets, with their license number printed in large figures on the back of the jacket, and a bike safety class required to get a jacket.

Whatever the arguments, I checked with Lowell Porter of the state traffic safety commission, Brad Benfield of the state licensing department and Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and none were aware of any recent efforts to require licenses for bicycles or bicyclists.

Of windshield wipers and headlights


The in basket: Susanne Hughes of East Bremerton writes, “I moved here from a state that requires a driver to turn on his/her headlights whenever the windshield wipers are in use.  I am not familiar with Washington’s laws on this subject and am wondering  when headlights are required to be used in this State.  

“Also, does Washington ever use headlight test areas for safety?” she asked.

The out basket: No state law specifically requires headlights when the wipers are on. The law that covers this says, “Every vehicle upon a highway within this state at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead shall display lighted headlights…”

I asked Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton state patrol office if citations are written for violating that law when rain, snow or fog cut visibility and she said, “Yes, troopers do regularly stop drivers for this, and have written tickets for this violation during extreme weather conditions if they are not visible at a distance of 1,000 feet. The penalty is $124.  

“Depending on the situation, a verbal warning may be given and the driver asked to turn on their lights,” she said. “Other times a ticket may be issued if (the violation) causes a collision or near miss.”  

As for stretches of highway where headlight use for safety reasons is encouraged by signs along the roadside, they do exist in this state. Lisa Copeland of the Olympic Region of state highways says there is one just across the Kitsap/Pierce County line on Highway 302 just past the Purdy spit

Bad behavior causes parking lot closure near Fairgrounds


The in basket: Lance Hagele asks, “Why is the parking lot on the corner of Fairgrounds Road and Tracyton Boulevard closed? 

“It has been closed for a very long time and I thought it might be closed  for renovations,” he said. “I noticed it was open for vendors to park their RV’s during the Kitsap County Fair. 

“This parking lot supports the Anna Smith Park. Now people must park along Tracyton Boulevard, which poses  an unsafe condition to enjoy the park,” he said.

 The out basket: Dori Leckner of Kitsap County Parks replies, 

“The parking area you mention is blocked off because many used it for  illegal dumping. People left campers, cars, trailers, dead animals, headstones and yard waste there. 

“When the parking lot was open, there were break-ins and vandalism to vehicles parked there because of its remote location. 

“We’ve kept the Master Gardeners at Anna Smith Park informed about these challenges and they understand why this parking lot is closed,” she said. “We are working to see how we can alleviate these concerns and open the lot in light of these challenges.”

Bond Road right turners might get a green arrow light


The in basket: Val Tangen of Hansville thinks right turn traffic from Bond Road to northbound Highway 3 in Poulsbo could be made to clear more quickly. 

“As you come to the light on Bond Road and want to turn right and go up the hill to (Highway) 3, there is a right turn lane,” she noted. 

“Why can’t there be a right-turn arrow when the traffic going towards Poulsbo/Bainbridge is making left turns on their arrow?”

Each car now must come to a stop before proceeding with that turn though no conflicting traffic can be coming.

The out basket: It might be done, says Don Anders of the Olympic Region signal shop for state highways here.

But there is a crosswalk there from one side of Highway 305 to the other. Pedestrians can be endangered by a right turn arrow if drivers make the turn carelessly, emboldened by the green arrow. 

Chances are there are very few pedestrians who cross there, as there is no development on the north side of Bond Road on either side of the highway. The crosswalk on the south side of that intersection would be more useful to most people on foot. That may be a deciding factor.

They’ve been approved to spend the money if the pedestrian issue can be resolved, Don said.

Official merging advice surprises Road Warrior

The in basket: Don Payne, in an e-mail on another subject, happened to point out a section of the state Driver’s Guide on page 75 in the current version headed “Space to Merge.”

It reads, in part, “You need a four-second

gap whenever you change lanes, enter a roadway, or when

your lane merges with another travel lane.

“• Do not try to merge into a gap that is too small. A small

gap can quickly become even smaller. Enter a gap that

gives you enough space cushion to be safe.

“• If you want to move over several lanes, take them one at

a time. Like going up or down stairs one step at a time,

it is safest and easiest to merge one lane at a time.”

I was surprised and alarmed by those bullet points. 

The first seems to advocate stopping or slowing sharply on a freeway on-ramp if you don’t think you see a four-second gap in traffic. That’s an invitation to getting rear-ended, I think.

The second runs counter to my experience, which is that you often are closely following a car after your first lane change, while you look back for traffic in the next lane, another set-up for a rear-ender if the car ahead stops or slows. 

In places like the move across two lanes in Gorst to get into the lane to Port Orchard, and the I-5 weave to reach Highway 16 going toward the Narrows Bridge (now being eliminated by a major construction job), I have found it much safer to check both lanes for traffic and move across both in one motion if traffic allows.

I asked the Department of Licensing, State Patrol and State Traffic Safety office if that is really their position.

The out basket: They let Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the Bremerton WSP detachment reply for all of them.

“Our state’s traffic safety agencies all stand behind the advice you inquired about from the Washington State Driver’s Guide,” Krista wrote.

 “As a law enforcement officer, I do agree with the advice given regarding space to merge. 

“Yes, if a driver stops on a ramp while trying to merge there is always a hazard of being involved in a rear-end collision.  Fortunately, this does not happen often as most drivers who are merging – as well as those already on the highway – typically speed up or slow down accordingly to allow others to merge in.  The majority of drivers are courteous and I regularly see drivers already on the highway moving over to the left to allow the others space to merge in. 

 “Yes, each lane change should be done as the guide refers to as stair steps.  Moving across more than one lane of traffic is considered a lane travel violation (or unsafe lane change) and carries a penalty of $124.  

“The key is to move into a lane, establish yourself in that lane, and then safely move over to the desired lane.  I have seen more collisions caused by drivers quickly moving across more than one lane at a time.”    

State law requires signaling for 100 feet before changing lanes, so I guess that would constitute “establishing yourself in a lane.”

I asked about multiple lane changes years ago, long before Krista became WSP spokeswoman, and the local office wasn’t able to decide whether my way was legal or not. 

It’s good to have a definitive answer, even though it’s not what I have been doing and I will feel more in peril doing it their way.