Those perplexing Thru Traffic Keep Left signs

The in basket: Floyd Routh asked for clarification some time back of the Thru Traffic Keep Left signs on Highway 3 northbound in Gorst and southbound just past the Kitsap Way interchange.
He had been pulled over by a Bremerton police officer for driving in the left lane northbound out of Gorst without passing another car. He didn’t get a ticket.
“When I found out why I was pulled over, I was more argumentative than he deserved,” Floyd said, then he asked, “Could someone clarify the ‘THRU TRAFFIC KEEP LEFT’ signs that are on Highway 3?  RCW 46.61.100 states to keep right except when passing.  Which takes precedence?
 “The signs are white with black lettering,” he noted. “These are regulatory signs and must be followed until superseded by a subsequent/follow-up sign or are no longer applicable.”
The closest follow-up sign is after Austin Drive  and says ‘SLOWER TRAFFIC KEEP RIGHT’.  “Technically, drivers heading from Port Orchard to Bangor should stay in the left lane from Gorst until Chico,” Floyd argued. “This is what I was doing when I got pulled over.
“Apparently the signs are to an old color scheme and were meant for ‘information only’,” Floyd said. “Are drivers expected to know which black and white signs are real and which are to be ignored?”

The out basket: Trooper Russ Winger of the State Patrol here, said, “The merge to left signs on southbound SR-3 at SR-304, whether regulatory or non-regulatory in nature, take precedence over the “keep right except to pass” rule, posted or not. As for the ‘Thru Traffic Keep Left’ signs on northbound SR-3 in Gorst,  they are intended to allow for the smooth merging of traffic from the northbound SR-3 on ramp, just south of the train trestle in Gorst.

“Motorists should, after a reasonable distance north of the on-ramp northbound SR-3, move back into the right lane of travel and remain there if traveling slower than surrounding traffic or not actively passing traffic in the right lane.

Common sense should guide here as to ‘reasonable distance’ past the merge on-ramp, meaning that point on the highway where traffic is no longer actively merging from the ramp.

 “The RCW  46.61.100 rule for keeping right except to pass or “
‘Slower Traffic Keep Right’ on a two-lane divided highway is always in effect unless otherwise signed. The fact that there may be no sign stating ”Keep Right Except to Pass’ does not mean a motorist should stay in the left lane until they see this sign.
“Motorists will see this sign at various points along long stretches of roadway on limited access highways. These signs are a reminder to motorists of the lane travel law.

“I think your reader is incorrect in saying that ‘technically’ a motorist driving from Port Orchard to Bangor should stay in the left lane from Gorst until Chico. The highway is multi-lane and the rules of the road supersede unless otherwise posted.

 The signs are black and white. It is my opinion that they should be to warn motorists to keep left (they do not say ‘left lane only thru traffic’) at the interchange with SR-304. You are still ‘staying left’ even if you are in the right lane when coming to the merge at SR-304.
“It is somewhat confusing and perhaps caution type signs should be used  – or no signs at all,” Russ said..
“I have spoken to at least seven of my fellow troopers and not one said they have written a ticket for ‘going through’ while not keeping left. I have not issued such a citation in my 23-year career here in Kitsap County, nor can I remember even stopping a vehicle for this.”
Though I (the Road Warrior) have many times raised the question of why the black and white signs are not mandatory, as black and white signs are supposed to be, I have never gotten an answer.

3 thoughts on “Those perplexing Thru Traffic Keep Left signs

  1. I wish every one on the peninsula would read this. There are so many drivers here who do not keep to the right except to pass. Between them and those who get in the left lane miles before their left turn, it can be a frustrating drive most any where. More often than not the right lane is the best since these drivers clog up the left one, often at a speed less than the speed limit.

  2. Northbound in/from Gorst on Hwy 3 at the northbound on-ramp, isn’t all traffic on the main road “Thru Traffic?” So all traffic should use the left lane there? Maybe a “Merging Traffic” sign would be a better fit for the situation. If smooth merging at on-ramps is a goal, should all on-ramp areas have “Thru Traffic Keep Left” signage?

    Many drivers merging from freeway and other on-ramps drive as if they expect right-of-way over right-lane mainstream traffic (unless there’s a semi-truck approaching), and seem unable or unwilling to adjust their ramp speed for a smooth merge, regardless whether or not the mainstream traffic volume fills both mainstream lines.

  3. Yup, some folks think in Kitsap think it’s their right to drive five under the speed limit in the fast lane. Folks in Gorst should understand that there are three lanes through Gorst. If you keep to the center lane, you are keeping left. That right lane is for merging in and out and the left lane is for passing. If the state were smart they’d put up a sign that said, “Through traffic use center lane”.

    For the record, this may seem complicated but it’s not really.

    If you’re on a divided highway with on and off ramps you should keep right except to pass.

    If you’re in town on a multi-lane road with stop signs or lights, you should stay to the left to allow folks to merge in and out of traffic.

    You don’t have a right to hog whatever lane you’re in. If you’re not in a hurry, move over and let folks by. Just as you wish to be treated considerately and not be tailgated, other folks may be in a hurry and would like to get past and don’t deserve to have you blocking them in. Consideration goes both ways.

    Travis, it was great to see you on the Garden tour this weekend. Be sure to come check out Music in Manette and ManetteFest.

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