Monthly Archives: February 2012

Is it a 2, 3 or 4-second rule for following on a highway?

The in basket: I was cleaning out old e-mails when I came across one from Donald Payne, sent in 2008, to which I’d never attended.

“Yesterday I was signing up a senior driver for an AARP Senior Driver Class,” Don said, “and she said she had seen a program on TV in which two

Washington State Patrolmen were discussing, explaining and advocating a two-second following distance.  I saw the program myself, earlier, and

that’s what they were dealing with — a two-second distance.  “The lady said she was confused.  She is aware that the

State Driver’s Guide says four seconds; and having taken our class previously, she is aware of the three-second recommendation.

“So, the lady’s question is:  Which one is right?  Is it two, three, or four?

“What’s your take on the situation?”

The out basket: One of the troopers in question, Johnny Alexander, said he and Monica Alexander “may have briefly mentioned following distance during the KOMO Traffic Reports more than three-years ago. (That would have been around 2005.)

“However, we never participated in a television program where following distance was the topic,” he said. “The Department of Licensing Drivers Guide, page 71 – “Space Ahead,” indicates if you are driving 30 mph or less, the two-  to three-second rule is recommended.  However, at speeds higher than 30 mph, the four-second rule is recommended.  The Washington State Drivers Guide can be accessed through

“We encourage our troopers to use the four-second rule.  Most troopers add one-second to the count to further reduce the chance of being the causing driver of a rear-end collision,” he said.

Since Don asked, my take on the situation is you’ll be darn lucky to maintain the recommended distance from the car ahead on a multi-lane highway in heavy traffic as some other driver will probably slide into the space, but it’s worth a try. It should be easily observed on a two-lane highway.

And in case this whole idea is foreign to you, here is how the driver’s guide says it works:

• Watch when the rear of the vehicle ahead passes a sign, pole, or any other stationary point.

• Count the seconds it takes you to reach the same spot: one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one- thousand, four-one-thousand. You are following too closely if you pass the mark before you finish counting.

• If so, drop back and then count again at another spot to check the new following distance. Repeat until you are following no closer than four seconds.

–Isn’t one pedestrian sign on Schold Road enough?

The in basket: Kathy Anderson, with her tongue in her cheek, I suspect, asked about what seemed to her to be duplication of signs on Schold Road north of Silverdale.

“I live close to and walk the Clear Creek Trail frequently,” she said. “Could you ask the appropriate culprits why, in addition to the sign which clearly shows a pedestrian, they felt the need to add an additional sign stating PEDESTRIANS ON PAVEMENT?  Was it just in case the pedestrians were, in fact, monkeys hanging from trees?  Love your column.”

The out basket: The sign with the picture of a pedestrians is intended to let drivers know pedestrians may be crossing the road or along the shoulder.

Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works, says, “This section of road was delineated to provide a pedestrian/bicycle path. The sign indicates pedestrians are actually on the road surface, not just adjacent to or near the road. Pedestrians do not have a separated or protected area to walk along the road.”

County will move Greaves Way trees

The in basket: DJ LaPour read a recent Road Warrior column about Silverdale’s Greaves Way online at and posted this comment: “Sadly, the few dozen Thundercloud Plum trees lining Greaves Way are dying from a fungal disease.  So much for landscaping.  I was surprised at the choice of plantings since this variety has been affected by disease all over the Puget Sound area.”

The out basket:The county initially decided to mount a chemical and manual effort to save the trees where they are, but thought better of it.

Doug Bear of Kitsap County Public Works, without addressing the implied criticism of the choice of that species of tree in the first place, said, “The plum trees are infected with blight caused primarily from poor drainage.” He first described  a program of “cultural methods and chemical treatment to control this disease that  include removing and destroying infected twigs and branches as well as any rotted fruit and an approved fungicide to be applied in early spring when buds break, and at intervals during the spring until dry weather arrives.”

But County Road Superintendent Don Schultz wrote on Thursday, “After further review of our options, we decided to mitigate the situation by removing all of the trees and transplanting them in another area that has suitable soil environment that will sustain them. We will look at planting something else in their place.”


Magazine alleges use of fake construction zones

The in basket: Jerry Drumm and one other reader have forwarded to me an e-mailed clipping attributed to the January edition of Motorcycle Consumer News that reports a number of abuses it claims have been perpetrated by law enforcement to support traffic tickets and increase revenue for government budgets around the U.S.

Written by Fred Rau, it begins with the following remarkably detailed accusation:

“On Interstate 5 in Snohomish County, Washington, Lance Ramsay stands behind a surveyor’s tripod. He is wearing the typical jeans, hard hat and reflective vest of a highway


“But all is not as it seems. The device on the tripod is actually a laser speed ranging gun, and Ramsay is a Washington State Trooper, tracking cars as they transit from the legal highway

speed limit to the ‘construction zone’ limit. A half-mile behind him, eight more troopers wait.

“The construction zone is a fake, which begs the question of whether the speed limit is even valid. In just two hours, Trooper Ramsay and his crew write 76 speeding tickets—or more than one every two minutes—for an average take of$210 per ticket. That’s approximately $8000 per hour collected from motorists who actually didn’t do anything wrong.”

The article goes on to cite various places in the country that have been using such phony construction zones, or are thinking about authorizing them. It then morphs into a discussion of allegedly shortened times on yellow lights at red light camera intersections, again as a money-making strategy.

But only the paragraphs above involved Washington state, so that’s all I asked my State Patrol contacts about.

The out basket: Trooper Russell Winger of Bremerton replied,”The Department of Transportation establishes designated work zones on state highways. The areas have to be signed as such, for enforcement to take place under the construction zone statute. Although, enforcement can and does take place in these zones when there may not be any workers in the area.

The Washington State Patrol does not establish, or condone the establishment of fake construction zones so troopers can write double fine infractions,” Russell said, using bold face print.

“The article that you referred to used an event – a speed enforcement emphasis- in Snohomish County that actually occurred several years ago.

“The article claims – wrongly – that a ‘fake construction zone’ was used for this emphasis. It was some troopers being creative in their emphasis, but in no way involved using a ‘fake construction zone'”.

He then referred me to Trooper Keith Leary, who has the equivalent PIO job in Snohomish.

Keith said, “This is not something we are in the practice of doing. This was done once almost 8-10 years ago by a trooper who thought it would be a good idea but that did not become a standard.

“This looks like someone Googled a very old story.  I am wondering why a story is surfacing now about an emphasis that was set up and conducted one time, 10 years ago.

“Troopers often work with DOT to reduce speeds in constructions zones but these troopers are in patrol cars, motorcycles or unmarked aggressive driving designated patrol cars.”

Keith said Rau got the trooper’s name right, but he has no idea if the other specifics are correct. The rest of his response can be found below.

As for shortened yellow light durations at red light camera intersections, I have heard intimations of that in Bremerton, the only local jurisdiction to use them, but I have never seen one that seemed shorter than others where there are no cameras.

I certainly have not seen it on Warren Avenue at either 11th or 16th streets, the camera enforcement intersections I most often frequent.

Which shouldn’t be construed to be an endorsement of the red light cameras. As I wrote long before the first such camera went into use in Bremerton, red light infractions here are almost always done at low speed in either left or right turns. In my miles of driving and specific observation of intersections that readers have claimed to be red light hazards, I have never seen a close call attributable to a blown red light, and have almost never seen a straight-through red light infraction.

Motorcycle Consumer News has a Web site,, but I haven’t been able to locate the Fred Rau article on the site.


Trooper elaborates on where traffic fines go

Trooper Keith Leary expanded on his response in the column above to say, “Less than 5 percent (of fines) funds the WSP budget. We are in the business of saving lives not generating revenue.

“The question gets asked all the time where the money goes from traffic infractions. Here are the most common questions and the answers:

How does the State Patrol set fines for speeding and other traffic violations?

The Washington State Patrol does not set fines for speeding and traffic violations. The base penalty is set by the Washington State Supreme Court (RCW 46.63.110) but does not include statutory assessments, which are set by the State Legislature. The Monetary Penalty Schedule for Infractions (effective July 1, 2007) can be viewed from the Washington Courts Web site.

How is the money from speeding fines and other violations used?

Of the citation fines, 57 percent are remitted to the local jurisdiction wherein the citation was issued, and 43 percent  are remitted to the Public Safety Education Account (PSEA). These funds are used to promote traffic safety education, highway safety, criminal justice training, crime victims’ compensation, judicial education, the judicial information system, civil representation of indigent persons, winter recreation parking, drug court operations, and state game programs. PSEA funds less than 5 percent of the overall WSP budget, primarily the WSP Crime Lab, which is spent in partial funding of the Crime Laboratory, the Meth Response Team, and the Identification Section.”

Getting out of an address change won’t be easy

The in basket: Kathleen Pulici, who lives on an unimproved road in Central Valley, wrote, “We received a letter from CenCom which states that, to be in accordance with Kitsap County Code, we have to name our driveway.

“Our driveway serves10 families who have Central Valley Road addresses. Naming the driveway seems unnecessary and very inconvenient for the residents. Cencom has sent aide vehicles in the past, and has had no problem finding the addresses, which are all well marked.

“My question,” she said, “is this ‘request’ a requirement under the law, or can we respectfully decline to name our driveway and change our addresses?”

Her issue sounded familiar. It seemed like the county had undertaken such widespread address corrections in the past. I was referred to Tom Powers, address coordinator at CenCom, to learn the nuts and bolts of this one.

The out basket: Tom replied, “You probably do recall a time in the past when there was a major readdressing effort in Kitsap County. It was about 10 years ago following the 2000 Census. One of the driving forces behind our current project was the collection and comparison of addressing data in conjunction with the 2010 Census.

“A comparison of addressing data between various county departments, including Elections, did not match up, and many addresses needed to be verified, and corrected before elections districts could be accurately redrawn for 2012. So, addressing issues tend to come to the forefront every 10 years.

“Examples of bad addresses,” Tom said, “are 1) an odd or even address number on the wrong side of the street, 2) an address number that is out of sequence with other addresses around it, or 3) a house addressed off of Street A, but access to the property is actually from Street B.

“Kitsap County Code also specifies (and this is the part that applies to Ms. Pulici’s question) that an unnamed easement must receive a road name once there are a certain number of houses on it. This is in the interest of making the residences easier to find for emergency response vehicles. Long, branching driveways, marked only with a stack of 10 or 20 address signs on a post at the main road can cause confusion and delays for an emergency vehicle.

“This is definitely not a situation unique to Ms. Pulici’s easement or area. Over the past 10 months, we have put new road names on over 50 easements, and have another 30 or so currently in the works. All told, with new road names and the other types of address corrections mentioned earlier, we have changed over 1,000 addresses so far.

“While these changes are not mandatory, there are specific criteria and procedures that must be followed if someone chooses to ‘opt out’ of having their address changed or their road named.

“As a 9-1-1 employee, I try to encourage people to understand the public safety benefits of correct and logical addressing, and cooperate with our efforts. But there is an appeal process available, as well as waivers for both individual address changes or road naming.

“There is a small cost associated with filing the paperwork required to document the waivers, and they are considered temporary in that the address change will go through if usage or ownership of the property changes.

“Also, for a Road Name Waiver, the request must be unanimous, in that every property owner on the easement must sign and file paperwork. There are other requirements for an easement to qualify for a road name waiver, such as the addresses must all be sequential with no odd/even errors.

Having gotten this information, Kathleen tells me the neighborhood would like their driveway to be named Lost Lake Trail, using the neighborhood name for the pond at its end.

Information on the addressing project is online at




Does it pay for police to take their patrol cars home?

The in basket: Tom Wisniewski writes, “Please remind me what the benefit to taxpayers is of every deputy sheriff and state trooper having his/her own patrol car to commute to work with.

“The benefits to the deputies are obvious: Free transportation to and from work, no need for buying your own second car, something to drive to your part-time job directing traffic around construction zones, etc.

“I would guess the counties/state own at least 33 percent more vehicles than would be required if patrol cars were used by more than one deputy,” Tom said.

The out basket: Krista Hedstrom, before turning over public information officer duties for the State Patrol here to Trooper Russell  Winger recently, replied, “Many troopers have additional duties which require them to be on call and subject to call outs and response to a scene.  Examples of those positions are drug recognition expert, collision tech, rapid deployment force, detectives, public information officer,  K9 and (others). The majority of troopers hold one or more of these specialty positions.

“Each trooper is responsible for the care and equipment of their own vehicle,” she continued, “and are authorized to drive it while in an on-duty status or for overtime that is WSP sponsored .Troopers working part time employment (non-WSP/WSDOT/WTSC sponsored) are not authorized to drive their issued patrol vehicles for these details.

“The policy and regulations related to this issue remain the same for  marked and unmarked patrol vehicles.”

Capt. Tom Wolfe of Bremerton police referred me to a study of this done for the Tacoma Police Department in 2004.

The firm hired concluded that the department saved about $1.5 million a year by assigning cars to its officers, as opposed to having them share cars from a pool.

The bulk of the savings come from officer productivity, in that “it took an average of 28 minutes to check a (pool) vehicle out and load gear and equipment,” the study said, and from not having to provide a place to garage patrol cars when not in use.

“Our analysis shows that the break even point for the city to subsidize officers commuting in their vehicles is between 7 and 14 miles one-way, based strictly on the financial costs of commuting vs. the financial costs of providing in-city parking,” it said.

It also said officers each made an average of six off-duty law enforcement contacts, such as assisting with an arrest, outside of their assigned work hours while driving to or from home, over a sample two month period.

The study recommended the city continue to assign cars to individual officers but said, “The city should examine its policy on subsidizing commuting. This policy should not, however, focus entirely on financial issues and should recognize that officers provide services while commuting to and from work that benefit society as a whole.”

Mark Fulghum, information officer for TPD, said he believes pool cars are treated more roughly and therefore need replacement more often, but the study didn’t make much of a point of that.

It did say that assignment had the downside of encouraging officers to live farther away from work, since they didn’t have to pay for their commute.









Silverdale right turn lane proposed, but would have to go through process

The in basket: Henry Sicat proposes a change in Silverdale to make travel easier.

“As I’m sure most people have probably noticed,” he said, “the Silverdale area traffic (is) getting worse every year, I wonder if (the county) can maybe
add a right turn lane from Ridgetop Boulevard to Silverdale Way northbound, just like the existing right turn lane coming from the opposite direction.

“This, I believe, would help alleviate the congested traffic at that busy intersection,” Henry said.

The out basket: “There are no plans to improve the intersection as your reader suggests,” replies Doug Bear, spokesman for Kitsap County Public Works. “The costs involved in a project like this would make it a capital project and would need to be considered as part of the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

“An explanation of the TIP process is available online at,” he said. That’s also where you can also see the most recently adopted TIP to see what road projects the county has planned through 2017.

“During the spring,” Doug added, “we actively encourage residents to submit ideas, like the one your reader mentions, for consideration in this process. Suggestions are considered and rated …. Questions about the tip process can be sent to Jim Rogers, transportation planner, at



Two Washington Avenue concerns in Bremerton

The in basket: Willadean Howell has a couple of suggestions for making Washington Avenue in Bremerton more driver friendly.

She finds the left turn for those coming off the new Manette Bridge to be uncomfortably tight due to the center barrier that divides the two directions of travel on Washington. If the end of the barrier at the bridge access were cut back a short distance, the turn would a lot easier, she said.

She also echoed a suggestion I got year or so ago about making the southbound outside lane of Washington at Sixth Street a right-turn-only lane. Most drivers make that turn and the inside lane is sufficient to handle those wanting to go straight ahead, she argued. As it is now, drivers who otherwise could make a right on red and be on their way are trapped behind any driver who wants to go straight and must wait for a green light.

When another reader made the same  right-turn-only suggestion, city engineers of the time said they wouldn’t what to make such a change piece-meal but would consider it as part of a larger review of downtown traffic flows.

The out basket: Gunnar Fridriksson, the city street engineer who answers my questions these days, says he agrees with his predecessors about the right turn.

“(There are a) couple of issues here,” he said, “one of which

would be reconfiguring the existing signal and its cabinet – and the costs associated therewith.”

“Further, extending Washington’s widened sidewalk, currently south of Fifth Street, up

to Sixth Street may be affected by such a change and must be considered.”

“I do believe this is an excellent issue to be addressed with a downtown circulation study,” Gunnar added. “I will put a note into the file with your e-mail for when we do pick that back up.”

As for the barrier intruding on left turns, there are no plans to chop it back, he said. The state tested the turn with a Kitsap Transit bus and a tractor-trailer and “were able to have both of them make the movement,” he said.

Of course, state officials said they used a bus in designing the new east-end Manette roundabout and they wound up enlarging it after buses actually started using it.

Slowing or stopping for an emergency vehicle?

The in basket: Bea Bull writes, “I was recently driving south on Highway 3 past the on-ramp from Bangor. An ambulance was coming down the on-ramp with its lights flashing and siren going.

“I was quite some distance ahead and in the center lane, so stayed put until I could determine which lane the ambulance would want. When (it) went to the far left lane, I pulled to the far right lane and slowed down.

“I, and the majority of the other cars, pulled to the right lane and proceeded to drive slowly. However, three cars pulled off onto the shoulder and stopped.

“After the ambulance passed, the cars that had pulled to the shoulder and stopped couldn’t safely get back into traffic because 1) all us slow-movers were passing them and 2) behind us were cars traveling at full highway speed because they hadn’t encountered the ambulance.

“So, here’s the question…  When driving on a freeway or large divided highway where there are at least three lanes, do you move to the right lane and slow down?  Or pull off and stop?”

The out basket: Trooper Russell Winger, public information officer for the local State Patrol office, says, “RCW 46.61.210  requires motorists, upon immediate approach of an emergency vehicle, to … immediately move  to the right edge or curb of the roadway, parallel to the road and clear of any intersection and SHALL STOP and remain there until the emergency vehicle has passed.

“On multi-lane roadways, motorists should begin to safely slow and move to the far right as soon as they are aware of the approaching emergency vehicle. In reality, during times of  heavy traffic, not all vehicles will be able to make it to the shoulder to stop before the emergency vehicle passes. All motorists should be at least in the active process of slowing and moving safely to the shoulder and stopping.

“…Motorists(should) be aware that emergency vehicles often  respond to calls with multiple units. These vehicles are not always traveling closely together and motorists should not immediately upon pass of the emergency vehicle start filling in the lanes behind the passing vehicle. There could be two to three more emergency vehicles that still need to pass.

“Take your time,” he said. “No driver needs to be in that much of a hurry.

“Knowing the law, having good situational awareness and using … common sense will help keep everyone on the roadway safe in these situations,” Russell concluded..