The in basket: Stephen Rachner of South Kitsap raises an all too
familiar question after encountering some animosity on Highway 16
northbound where paving at the Burley-Olalla interchange project
has been closing one of the two lanes.
Traffic backs up for miles in the inside lane, leaving those
willing to abide the resulting hostility with room in the right
lane to pass those cars in the left lane until the actual point
where the right lane ends. Stephen, who must go that way twice a
day, says he’s one of them.
The other day, he and everyone else staying in the right lane
were getting the finger from a motorcyclist in the inside lane who
then pulled into the outside lane after Steve had passed and
attempted to block the lane.
He also had a tense standoff with a school bus whose driver
didn’t want to let him in at the merge point, he said, though the
bus driver finally relented.
It’s exactly the scenario one can see any weekday afternoon on
southbound Highway 3 as it approaches Highway 304 in Bremerton.
But Stephen said he’d read an article in the Tacoma News Tribune
a year ago about yet another example of this conflict, the
northbound off-ramp from I-5 in Tacoma to westbound Highway 16 at
That article, he said, quoted a trooper from Tacoma saying that
blocking a lane, as the motorcyclist tried to do, is a citable
infraction, as is refusing to make room for someone trying to merge
from a lane that is ending into one that is continuing.
I asked Trooper Krista Hedstrom, spokesman for the State Patrol
here, if she agrees.
The out basket: Yes on attempts to block traffic in a travel
lane, no on refusing to make room for a merging vehicle, Krista
“If a vehicle is in the outer lane and intentionally holding up
traffic by stopping so that others cannot get by, you can receive a
traffic infraction ($124) for that,” she said.
She cites RCW 46.61.425, which reads ”No person shall
drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal
and reasonable movement of traffic except when reduced speed is
necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law.”
RCW 46.61.570 also prohibits it, she said. That’s a law dealing
with stopping, standing and parking. That law has always been
incomprehensible to me, beginning with what’s the difference
between stopping and standing. It goes on for paragraphs, but ends
by saying, “It shall be unlawful for any person to reserve or
attempt to reserve any portion of a highway for the purpose of
stopping, standing, or parking to the exclusion of any other like
person, nor shall any person be granted such right.”
Krista continued, “As for the vehicles who have already merged
over possibly being ticketed for not allowing those who wait until
the last minute to merge in – not true.
“Traffic in the outer lane whose lane is ending must merge
(yield) to the left. If they are unable to get over, those
already in the lane who merged ahead of time are not obligated to
let them in. It is, however, a common courtesy that we
encourage to avoid road rage/altercations – but those drivers who
need to merge must stop (where the lane narrows down to one) and
wait until they can safely get over.”
Since this column was posted Wednesday, it has drawn a
predictable reaction among those commenting, with those excoriating
Steve out-numbering those siding with him on use of the right lane.
His detractors were obviously a lot angrier than his supporters,
some using a common vulgarity to describe him.
To even things up a little, I will repeat what I’ve written
often about the merge on Highway 3 coming south past Bremerton,
which applies to the Highway 16 backups, as well..
Fill the two lanes equally, drivers, and don’t merge until you
have to. If nothing else, it will eliminate the obvious animosity
at the merge point because those in the right lane will have
crawled along at the same pace as those in the left, and will not
be seen as taking advantage of others’ patience. There also is
evidence, though not persuasive to everyone, that traffic moves
faster when both lanes are used.