Tag Archives: freeway

Freeway lane changes can be hazardous

The in basket: Jim Hazel writes, “Coming back from the airport, I was following a car that decided to move right to a slower lane at the same time as a person two lanes over tried to move left into the same spot. Fortunately, they both backed off before there was a problem, but my son and I got into a debate about who had the ‘right of way’ in that situation.

“My son suggested that the person moving right had precedence over the person moving left.  I said that they are both under a responsibility to avoid dangerous lane changes and that there is no ‘right of way’.  We both agreed that it is a moot point and perhaps would come down to the last person with a clear chance to avoid a collision.

“Do you know what the State Patrol’s position on this situation would be?”

The out basket: State Trooper Russ Winger of the local detachment replies, “Any time you are changing lanes you are required to yield to vehicles previously occupying the lane. In the case your writer describes, the decision and action to change lanes occurred simultaneously – apparently – and neither driver was aware of the other vehicle until the last second where both recognized the situation and took evasive action to avoid a collision. This probably happens countless times a day on the multiple lane freeway of the I-5 corridor.

“This could be because of blind spots, not checking mirrors, defective or missing mirrors, driver distraction in or out of the vehicle, and the all-important last-second head checks that may or may not have taken place.

“You have to sort through the possibilities in a collision investigation and the bold answer is not always staring at you,” Russ said. “In the event of a collision, absent any independent witnesses that could shed more light on the ‎event, and possible physical evidence on roadway that could suggest impact point in lane,  both drivers could be cited for improper lane change,” he said.

Fine can be steep for using cross-median emergency U-turns

The in basket: The Judybaker, my wife, saw an old vehicle, almost certainly not an official emergency vehicle, using that through-median paved patch on Highway 3 north of Chico Way to turn around recently. It and similar cut-throughs are intended for police, fire or other emergency vehicles going to an emergency and have No U-Turn signs. She wondered what the penalty is for a private citizen doing that.

The out basket: State Trooper Todd Bartolac, filling in for Kristra Hedstrom while she’s on leave, says the penalty can go up to $411.

That’s if the citing officer chooses to use that strange law (RCW 46.61.150) that reads, “Whenever any highway has been divided into two or more roadways by leaving an intervening space or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing section or by a median island not less than eighteen inches wide formed either by solid yellow pavement markings or by a yellow crosshatching between two solid yellow lines so installed as to control vehicular traffic, every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed or permitted to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers. No vehicle shall be driven over, across or within any such dividing space, barrier or section, or median island, except through an opening in such physical barrier or dividing section or space or median island, or at a crossover or intersection established by public authority.”

If you can’t spot the wording in that law that forbids turning across those through-median areas, you’re not alone. I can’t either. But that’s the same law that is interpreted to allow left turns across garden-variety double yellow lines, and to impose a $411 fine for crossing the gore points on freeways, those merging white lines at on- and off-ramps.

It seems that it can be interpreted to permit or forbid almost anything.

Todd also cited another law that seems more on point. It reads, “No person shall drive a vehicle onto or from any limited access roadway except at such entrances and exits as are established by public authority.” That one carries a $216 fine and seems better to describe what was done illegally.

Todd says an officer can choose either law. My guess is a officer also could choose to write a ticket for making an illegal turn or disregarding a regulatory sign (each with a $124 fine) or even negligent driving. Getting up to speed once the U-turn is complete, entering 60-mile-per-hour traffic while bouncing  over the inner rumble strip certainly could be called negligent, especially if it leads to an accident. The fine for negligent driving is $550.

Freeway mergers must yield

The in basket: Joy Forsberg of Central Kitsap said she got a dirty look from a women who was merging onto Highway 303 at Central Valley Road, heading to Silverdale recently, after Joy had decided to maintain her speed in the outside lane rather than moving over or changing speed to allow the woman in ahead of or behind her. 

It wasn’t the first time, either, she said. Is it no longer the responsibility of the person entering a freeway to yield to anyone on the freeway already, she asked.

Though she often does move to the inside lane in such situations, that time she chose not to. “She should not expect me to speed up or slow down” to let her in, Joy said.

The out basket: No, the law hasn’t changed, and should there have been a collision, the woman entering the freeway would have been at fault. 

In the real world, though, most drivers do move over to the inside lane to make way for the entering car. The dirty look may have been because the other woman was expecting that, rather that a belief that it was a requirement.

The woman did slow and fall in behind her after scowling at her, Joy said. 

She noted that often a car in  the inside lane keeps a driver from moving over, though she didn’t say if that was the case during her small confrontation.