The in basket: Denis Kuwahara of Port Orchard asked in March
about what is permissible in two-way turn lanes, specifically
citing the one on Bethel Avenue between the roundabout and Lund
” The roadway is marked with ‘Two-Way Left Turn Lanes’ as
identified in the Drivers Guide,” he said. “My question: Is it
proper (traffic permitting) to make a left turn into the turn lane
from a driveway and sit there until the right lane is clear?
“Many times,” he said, ” while attempting to make the left turn
the traffic coming from the left is clear but the traffic from the
right is not and it would
be beneficial to clear one lane and sit in the middle of the
(within the Two Way Left Turn Lane) and wait for a second lane
Then on June 5, Dave Dahlke of Port Orchard wrote to say he’d
heard of someone getting a ticket for using the center turn lane on
Bethel as an ingress from a side street. “I have never heard of
this before,” he said, then cited an article in the Seattle Times’
equivalent to Road Warrior that said such a maneuver is quite
The out basket: I have said the same thing in past columns, but
because one Kitsap County Sheriff’s traffic officer said years ago
that I was wrong, I decided to double-check with my current
contacts in KCSO and the State Patrol when Denis asked.
There followed several weeks of confusion.
The final answer is that the maneuver is legal, but that’s not
the first answer Deputy Scott Wilson of KCSO got out of the county
prosecutor’s office. A senior deputy read the obscure law and told
Scott that using the two-way turn lane as a refuge lane mid-way
through a left turn would be an infraction.
That, of course, was contrary to common practice, even by law
enforcement officers, and came as quite a shock. To forbid the
practice would encourage risky dashes into traffic at those moments
there appears to be a break in both directions of
Mike Cassidy of Advantage Driving School said he teaches the use
of the two-way turn lane as the safe way to enter a busy street,
but adds that the driver should then stop and wait for traffic on
the right to clear, rather than pacing it looking to merge at the
speed of the passing traffic.
“The reason being that the focus of attention is to the rear and
not to traffic that may be approaching from the opposite direction
in the center turn lane,” he explained.
He also said many students pull into a left-turn lane going the
wrong way. That IS an infraction and is easy to do since most
two-way turn lanes become left turn-only lanes at some point
That senior prosecutor eventually said she had misunderstood the
question, and the final ruling, as conveyed by Scott Wilson,
“The two-way center turn lane is designed for vehicles turning
off of the roadway. You can make a left turn into this
lane and stop
while you wait for traffic to pass and allow a safe spot for you
merge into the lane on your right. You may not travel in
this lane for a distance of no more than 300 feet.
“It is the responsibility of those using this lane to make sure
it is safe before entering,” Scott continued. “Those vehicles
already on the main roadway will have the right of way.”
He added, “Without becoming involved in a public disagreement
about this, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office would like to add
that the wording in this statute, RCW 46.61.290, needs to be
revised by the state Legislature for clarification.
“Should a driver be issued a traffic notice of infraction for an
alleged violation of this rule of the road, in any jurisdiction,
then it would be up to the sitting judge in traffic court, and that
judge’s interpretation of the statute, on whether or not the driver
should have the ticket dismissed.”
To which I would add that while Mike Cassidy’s advice about
sitting still while waiting for traffic to provide an opening on
the right is very sound, the 300-foot rule in the law would appear
to not make moving forward for up to 300 feet illegal.