Monthly Archives: March 2011

Hey! Don’t turn your back on traffic!!

The in basket: Claudia Kilburn and Gary Lee think a lot of pedestrians could use a refresher course on walking along a road, especially at night.

Claudia writes, “My step-mom asked me to contact you with a concern. She drives very rarely at night but when she does she is very worried about pedestrians who walk along the road wearing dark clothing. She has even encountered people walking in her lane!

“She has had a couple of close calls and if they were wearing light-colored clothing they would be much easier to see. She has had this problem on Pine Road and McWilliams Road, but I don’t think this is an isolated area where this problem exists,” Claudia said.

Gary said, “On Chico Way where I live, dozens of people walk with their back to traffic.They have no clue about what’s coming and a lot of them have a dog (with them)..

“For heaven sakes,” he said, “walk toward the traffic.”

The out basket: It’s been about 50 years since I went to public school, but I have to think the importance of wearing easily visible clothing while walking on the roadsides at night is still a common caution for children.

If they haven’t gotten the message by now, I doubt that this mention will turn the trick, but I guess it’s worth a try.

Also, while wearing visible clothing as a pedestrian is just good advice, it’s worth noting that walking with your back to approaching vehicle traffic while on the shoulder is actually an infraction for which a person can be fined. It’s a $56 fine, though the law makes it an offense only if walking toward traffic is not “practicable.”

Both Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol and Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office say that educating the violators with a warning is more likely, especially if it’s a juvenile.

Scott added, “Notwithstanding what appears to be the de rigueur apparel of a number of young people, ie:  blue jeans, dark-colored hooded sweat shirt and a beanie or ball cap, the wearing of some type of reflective material is highly recommended.  (1)  Drivers usually aren’t expecting to find pedestrians along rural and semi-rural roads and (2)  county roadways typically aren’t illuminated by street lights except at certain locations.”

How much to slow down if you can’t ‘move over’ is still uncertain

The in basket: Leroy McVay, a regular Road Warrior reader in Poulsbo, writes, in what seems like a primitive form of text messaging, “Recently got an e-mail from a friend in OK. that her friend got a megabucks ticket for not slowing down enough in a ‘move over’ situation with police and aid units.  Was end of September, saw several LARGE black & white signs along the highway reminding people to ‘move over.’
“The best info I’ve seen on this law came from your column in the Sun,” Leroy said. “I still haven’t heard how much we’re expected to slow down if we can’t move over.  5 mph?  15 mph?  Perhaps you can get the answer to my question and save someone a BIG ticket.”

The out basket: It remains a “know it when they see it” situation for the police. Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol detachment here refers us to one of her agency’s online “Good to Know” advisories on the subject, but it’s only 48 seconds long and spends most of its advice on the ‘Move Over” part of the law, not the ‘slow down’ part. You can see it at

I’d say that even if you do move over, you won’t want to be traveling over the speed limit as you pass the emergency. And a ticket is more likely if there were no vehicles in the next lane to keep you from moving over and you don’t.

Krista says, “You can usually tell when someone slows down or has room to move over.  Most drivers are getting pretty good at slowing down and moving over.”

It won’t do you or me any good in court if we are cited for this, but I would argue that since the law applies to just 200 feet before and after the emergency vehicle, which doesn’t give you a lot of time to react at highway speeds, getting down to 10 mph under the speed limit would be a nice compromise between not endangering those on the shoulder and not creating a whole new emergency behind you.

Certainly, using your brakes to slow rather than just taking your foot off the gas would show an officer traveling behind you that you made an effort.

I’d also take that e-mail about the megabucks ticket with a grain of salt. This new law in several states has produced a few urban legend type misrepresentations.

Lane separation pylons on Kitsap Way need work

The in basket: Gary Lee saw a fender-bender in the rain a few weeks ago at Kitsap Way and 11th Street in Bremerton, in which two cars turning left side-by-side onto Kitsap Way bumped. It did a fair amount of damage to one of them, he said..

It caused him to ask about the upright pylons that normally separate the directions of travel  on Kitsap Way at that turn. Several of them are missing or lying flat. They might have kept the driver who left his lane to better judge the distance in that turn and avoid the accident, he thought. That should be taken care of, he said.

The out basket: I find those pylons to be  more helpful going the other way, turning right from the inside lane of 11th onto Kitsap Way.

Regardless of that, they’ll be replaced soon, says Colen Corey, head of the city of Bremerton street maintenance. “Those are called vertical delineators and they are replaced every spring after the threat of snow has passed,” he said. “They take a real beating during snow events, so we choose to wait on the replacement.”

I asked if drivers or snow plows do the most harm and Colen replied, “Mostly cars, but sometimes a plow may get into them too.” He suspects some drivers hit them on purpose, a form of vandalism.

Speed limit questioned on part of Seabeck Highway

The in basket: Tom Deno thinks the speed limit on Seabeck Highway should be reduced to 35 miles per hour around its intersection with Newberry Hill Road. He asks,”Why is it 50 mph? There are nine-foot lanes, no shoulders and no left-turn lanes. Newberry Hill Road has  wider lanes, wide shoulders and it is 45 mph.”

The out basket: Kitsap County Traffic Engineer Jeff Shea says there is no apparent need for such a change.

The speed limit on Seabeck Highway was set in 1976,” he said. “.Speed limits are normally reviewed when conditions along the road change significantly.

“Changes could include significant land development, roadway geometric changes, and high collision occurrence  among other considerations.

“Very little has changed along Seabeck Highway in this area,” Jeff said. “Along with little changes along the road, the collision history is minimal with about 3.5 collisions per year on Seabeck Highway between Newberry Hill and Holly.

“We continue to monitor all roads for indicators that warrant reviewing the established speed limits.”

Silverdale intersection puts the lie to my left-turn advice

The in basket: Emilio Gonzalez read the recent Road Warrior column about not swinging wide in making your left and right turns and applied it to a location I regret to say I hadn’t considered.

“Suppose there are two separate and distinct left-turn lanes provided for two drivers running side by side making the left turn,” he wrote. “Could the driver on the right side not be able to claim priority for the far-right lane of the street being turned into?

“I am specifically referring to the intersection of Silverdale Way and Bucklin Hill Road,” he said. “I am usually driving south on Silverdale Way, and at that intersection, I take the right lane of the two distinctly marked left-turn lanes into Bucklin Hill Road.

“Upon getting a green arrow, I proceed to make my left turn.  And invariably, cars traveling on the far right lane of Silverdale Way coming from the opposite direction but with a red light, will honk their horns to force their way to a right turn into Bucklin Hill Road.”

Do those right turners have a superior claim to the outside lane of the street being entered than he does, he asked. “The answer you gave in your column,  apparently backed by two traffic officers, might give tacit approval to those drivers in my example to continue doing what they are doing.”

The out basket: I’m afraid I get an “incomplete” in my handling of the left-turn question. My advice in the previous column applied only to single turn lanes. Obviously, when two lanes make the same turn side by side, they aren’t supposed to merge into one lane at the same time. When one lane is intended to serve competing traffic flows, the question becomes which flow has the green light. That would be the left turner, who would have the right of way in this case.

Deputy Scott Wilson. spokesman for the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, says, “When turning left, from southbound Silverdale Way onto eastbound NW Bucklin Hill Road, sheriff’s deputies have experienced those turning from (northbound) Silverdale Way onto (eastbound) Bucklin Hill Road cutting them off as they execute the right turn, due to inattention to traffic flow and the arrangement of the highway traffic lanes.

“And then there are some who just think that they can ‘beat the on-coming flow of turning traffic’ and slip in before the turning vehicles get there.

“It’s a ‘failure to yield’ type of violation, and would result in the at-fault driver (the right turner) receiving a notice of infraction with a penalty of $124.”

Checking back on speed limit around Tacoma Narrows Bridge

The in basket: It was almost a year ago that Michael Johnson asked the Road Warrior the reasoning behind the 55 mph speed limit on Highway 16 for miles on either end of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. There didn’t seem to be any need for the lower limit with the new bridge keeping traffic flowing freely.

State highway officials said at the time they were in favor of making the limit near the bridge the same 60 mph as most other places on the highway, but had run afoul of an environmental snag. Raising a speed limit where some pollution levels were higher than allowed needed some approvals the highway builders didn’t have. And getting that OK looked like it could take a while.

I asked this month how it was going.

The out basket: It’s likely to happen eventually, state highway officials say, but now it’s waiting for something else. The State Patrol asked that the limit be left at 55 mph until the huge construction project at Nalley Valley where Highway 16 and Interstate 5 intersect in Tacoma is completed.

“I believe the increase will occur once the work is done,” says Traffic Operations Engineer Steve Bennett of the state.

What can you get away with beyond a ‘Road Closed’ sign?

The in basket: Gary Felt, who lives just outside the city of Port Orchard on Highway 166, and says it “is often closed due to mud slides, or sometimes just the fear of a slide,” wants to know what he is allowed to do when that happens.

“What are the rights of a person who lives on, owns property on, or owns a business on a road when it is ‘closed,'” Gary asks. “Does it make a difference if the sign says ‘Local Traffic Only’ or ‘Detour’ as opposed to just ‘Road Closed?’

“If I live/own property and the only access is via this road may I drive around the barriers, walk around the barriers, or must I abandon my property? What if I have left my property and approach the barricade from the ‘closed’ side, am I breaking a law?”

Gary described a situation in which an officer followed him past the barricades during a “Local Traffic Only” period, nearly to the other end of the closure, where his driveway was. Just as he reached the driveway and signaled a turn, the officer turned on his emergency light bar, then turned it off immediately and went back to town.

The out basket: I posed the questions to Chief Al Townsend of Port Orchard police, whose officers have jurisdiction over most of Highway 166, though not right at Gary’s’s driveway.

He said a lot is left to the discretion of the officer. “Local Traffic Only” offers more latitude than “Road Closed,” since the latter may anticipate a problem, like a gas leak exploding or an unstable hillside giving way, rather than sealing off one that already has occurred.

And it depends whether the person is caught inside the outer barriers, designed to detour traffic from going where it would just have to turn around and come back, and the inner barriers designed to keep drivers from actually running into the reason for the closure.

You’d be more likely to get a ticket if you are inside the inner barriers.

But even then, the owner of a home or business in the closed area normally can arrange to get there by calling the road department or police department to get permission in advance, Al said. At worst, the caller would learn that the emergency is dire enough that he really shouldn’t be near it.

The city of Port Orchard has an ordinance making it illegal to violate an emergency road closure, which is a misdemeanor that requires an appearance in court. The officer might choose between it and citing for failure to comply with a regulatory sign, a traffic infraction.

Al said if stopped, a person who can show that he was trying to reach a particular home or business within the closure normally would be allowed to proceed. If nothing else, it would be a “clear mitigating factor” to use in challenging the citation in court, he said.

An officer is free to follow a car outside the city limits and cite the driver if he passed through the closure and wasn’t “local traffic” going to somewhere within it, he said.

“A lot of times, when we have had slides,” he said, “people think they can go down there and meander through the mess and get by, or there may be DOT workers in the midst and now they are dodging workers and equipment to try to get through.

Bicycles must comply the same as the driver of a car. Pedestrians can continue if there is a sidewalk and it isn’t closed, Al said. If there is no sidewalk, such as along most of Highway 166 west of Port Orchard, the closer one got to being in the way of road crews or getting hurt, the more likely that he could be cited, Al said.

Finally, he said, a driver who chances going into the closed stretch and his car is damaged might find his insurance company reluctant to cover what it would have on a road that isn’t closed.

WSP uses YouTube to warn “left-lane campers”

The in basket: Robin Henderson e-mailed to ask if I’d seen the video produced by Washington State Patrol on YouTube, informing its viewers of this state’s legal requirement to stay out of the left lane of multi-lane highways if you aren’t passing a slower-moving vehicle. You can be ticketed for “camping out in the left lane,” as that’s often called.

“Heh, heh,” Robin said, “I’d like to mount a projector on my dash so I could play the video in the rear view mirror of the guy in front of me camped in the left lane.”

The image atop this column, from an e-mail my cousin sent me, expresses the same sentiment.

The in basket: I had seen the video, just the day before, when I got a WSP news release about it. You can see it at

I don’t get too exercised about left lane campers, many of whom I think aren’t so much inconsiderate as genuinely afraid to confront the blind spot challenge that moving right presents. I usually can use the right lane to get around them quickly enough.

Even I find changing lanes to the right frightening on a crowded three- or four-lane urban freeway at night, more so since 2000 when I had neck surgery.

But I make it a point to move right if the driver behind me makes it clear he wants past by moving up on me, even if I’m going over the speed limit.

My wife, The Judybaker, is one who won’t move right for a car coming up on her from behind if she is doing the speed limit in the left lane and the traffic to her right is traveling slower than the limit. Of course, by definition, she then would be passing slower moving traffic and would be legal. But it still might irritate drivers behind her who want to exceed the speed limit, and probably would consider her a left-lane camper.

If the right lane traffic also is doing the speed limit, so she’s just pacing them, she could be risking a ticket. Or risk being stopped and warned, which the video says is a frequent result.

The video says there are exceptions to the rule, but doesn’t list them. They are when preparing to exit the highway to the left or to allow the merging of another vehicle, such as at a freeway on-ramp.

I urge those who get angry at left-lane campers ahead of them to make the following mental calculation. If you’re stuck behind such a driver for two minutes, you haven’t been delayed two minutes. You’ve been delayed only as long as it takes you to make up the distance you would have traveled at your preferred speed compared to the speed you were forced to travel. It’s usually a few seconds. If you won’t miss a ferry, you can live with it.

Change coming for left turners near Fred Meyer in Bremerton

The in basket: Vern Beeson and Steve Newton called me last fall to protest what they feel is the misuse of an access on Highway 303 in Bremerton across from the Camelot Court mobile home park, where Vern lives. It’s configured only for right turns into and out of the parking area at the Azteca restaurant just north of Fred Meyer.

But, both men said, it’s often used by left turners coming south on the highway. They aren’t dissuaded by the awkward configuration of that access for left turns.

Steve said he was almost hit by an Access bus that roared into the exit half of the access on Sept. 2, ignoring the Do Not Enter sign on that half.

“Nearly every time I’ve driven into East Bremerton the last year and a half,” he said, “there is a car trying to make an illegal left to go in the wrong way at this intersection” so they do not have to wait at the left-turn signal just ahead at Fred Meyer.

“(Are there) any plans to force traffic to go through the light, or does a fatal accident have to occur before action is taken?”

Vern added an aspect of the problem that hadn’t occurred to me. Drivers waiting to turn left toward Azteca are in the way of people like him who want to pull into the center area and make their own lefts to go home, he said. It’s especially irritating when he’s pulling his trailer and must then find a place to turn around up ahead so he can return and make a right turn into Camelot Court.

Unlike Steve and others who have objected to this, who want to see left turners toward Azteca cited for an illegal turn, Vern suggests closing the right-in half of that right-in-right out access altogether. He never sees anyone actually turn right into the parking area, he said.

The out basket: I’ve written about this twice before and the last time, in July 2005, I wrote that those left turns appear to be legal. There is no cross-hatching, sign or broad yellow center stripe to prohibit a left-turn, and the pavement arrows in the middle there show it as a two-way turn lane.

I so concluded despite a state patrol position that the turns SHOULD be illegal but that it would be hard to enforce with the current striping.

Trooper Krista Hedstrom, who has taken over as spokeswoman for the local WSP detachment, agrees with her predecessor from 2005, and says this time the state Department of Transportation has agreed to install No-Left-Turn signs, when it gets around to it, to allow citations for the action.

As for Vern’s idea, WSP would oppose closing that half of the access, she said. “Closing the right-in half of that access may eliminate one issue, but could potentially create others,” she said.”By eliminating that access, you are creating unnecessary traffic in the Fred Meyer parking lot which creates risks to pedestrians/shoppers.

“Right now that access may not be used much but that could be partly due to the fact that many of the businesses have closed,” she added.  “Once those buildings are occupied again, traffic will begin to pick up for those using that right-turn-in.”

That’s beside the point for Steve’s situation, as the turn he describes by the Access bus would clearly have been a violation, since it went in the exit and the driver ignored the Do Not Enter sign there.

Pot hole fairy visits Silverdale Post Office

The in basket: Mary-Jo Cantwell writes, “When on earth is someone going to fix the gigantic pothole at the Silverdale Post Office?  This gaping hole, right at the entrance to the drive-up mailboxes, is almost impossible to avoid and is getting worse everyday.

“What gives????”

The out basket: Pot holes in shopping areas are fairly commonplace and can go unrepaired for quite a while.

Note the one that just got filled in the access road that runs past Eddie Bauer into the Costco parking lot in Silverdale, and those that appear from time to time in the winter at one of the front accesses and the back road into South Park Village Shopping Center in South Kitsap.

It can be a little hard to pin down who to complain to and the absentee property managers can remain unaware of them for quite a while.

Silverdale Postmaster Harry Kleinfelder, for whom I left a message about the pot hole last Friday, called me back Monday to say he was very much away of the one Mary-Jo mentions, but said the postal service doesn’t own the building and wasn’t the responsible party.

Happily, though, Harry said that when he came to work that morning, he found that whoever IS responsible had filled the pot hole over the weekend. It wasn’t the county, says spokesman Doug Bear, which doesn’t maintain private streets.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s patched,” Harry told me.

Presumably someone got to the correct property management firm about the same time as Mary-Jo complained to me.