The in basket: Two readers – Sam Iam and BugeaterInWA, they called themselves – read the recent Road Warrior columns about not honking of flashing your headlights to reprimand another driver for not going forward when the light changes, camping out in the left lane or whatever else annoys you. Both asserted in comments on the Road Warrior blog at kitsapsun.com that passing such a driver on the right is not an option because it is illegal.
About the same time, Janet Adams wrote, “I have a question about staying in the right lane and passing a car when there are multiple lanes. I’m wondering about the section of Highway 3 going south from Poulsbo to Silverdale. A third lane gets added right after the Keyport area and I like to get in the right lane in anticipation of exiting towards Kitsap Mall. Sometimes, if I pass a car in the middle lane by going to
the left lane, I don’t have time to get back to the right lane and miss my exit,” she said.
The out basket: Passing on the right on a multi-lane highway is not illegal, though there is a law that is ambiguous of the subject.
State law (RCW 46.61.110) lists two circumstances in which passing on the right is legal. One, “When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn. Two,”Upon a roadway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of vehicles moving lawfully in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.”
Sadly, it doesn’t put an “and” or an “or” between them, so we don’t know if it’s meant to mean both or one or the other of the conditions must be met.
So I turn to the State Patrol, where spokesman Trooper Russ Winger of the local detachment says, “That law pertains to a single lane roadway with sufficient pavement outside the lane of travel (no driving on the shoulder and no passing if there’s an intersection to right side of the left-turning vehicle)
“It does not pertain to multi-lane highways or interstates. It makes no sense at all. If this was the case, we would be stopping cars left and right for this and we don’t. We’re talking about practical application of the law here.”
Perhaps that’s why I hear from so many drivers furious about left-lane campers. They think they’re stuck behind them without breaking the law. I just pass them and rarely have to wait that long to get around them. I think most of them do it because they are afraid of not seeing a car in the blind spot to their right rear, especially at night or in the rain. Many young drivers have no idea that aged, stiff necks and backs make that check more difficult than it is for them.