The in basket: Rod Gross of Poulsbo writes, “I so often see cars
that fail to use their turn signals for not only
actual turns right or left, but also for simple lane changes,
that I wonder what the laws dictate in that regard.
“Is it in fact illegal NOT to use your turn signal when turning
or changing lanes, and how often do the local, and state police
actually stop and ticket people for failure to signal?
Also, what are the penalties for failure to signal?
Arguably they are insufficient because the practice of
failing to signal is literally rampant.”
The out basket: Yes, the law requires signaling any turn or lane
change, even while entering or leaving a freeway or entering a turn
Signaling while entering or leaving a roundabout is recommended
by the state, but it is my understanding that a Port Orchard court
case that nullified a DUI arrest says otherwise at single-lane
roundabouts. The initial reason for the stop was failure to signal
a lane change at the Highway 166 roundabout, so the driver didn’t
If that ruling has been overturned, I’m hoping someone will set
I added to Ross’s inquiry when I passed it along to State
Trooper Russ Winger, spokesman for the patrol here. It admittedly
was self-serving because 69-year-old me is a text-book example of
an aged driver who regularly forgets to turn off his turn signal
after a lane change.
I asked if that is a violation, if the signal must continue
throughout the lane change or turn or can be stopped as the turn
begins, when I’m more likely to remember.
Russ said, “The law states that you must signal for ‘not less
than the last 100 feet traveled’ prior to turning or moving left or
right. Could you turn the signal off after 100 feet and then move
left or right ? According to the RCW, yes, as long as you
immediately start the movement into the other lane. Any lengthy
delay -a second or two at most – would give another motorist
reason to believe that the driver either mis-signaled or decided
not to change lanes.
“The whole idea behind signaling a turn or lane change is to
alert other drivers that SOMETHING is about to occur with a
vehicles path or direction of travel.”
Bad news for me on the leaving-the-signal-on front. “Yes,” Russ
said, “it is a violation to leave your signal on long after a lane
change is complete. Again, driving down the roadway with your
signal on with no intent to do anything is hazardous to other
motorists due to the false expectations it creates.”
Signaling violations, including that one, carry a $124 fine.
“Yes, we do stop motorists for failing to signal, improper signal,
no signal, on a regular basis,” Russ said.
“To an officer, this is valid reason to stop and talk with this
driver. It could mean several things. Possibly the driver just did
not signal. Possibly the driver has an equipment problem, light out
or signal indicator not functioning. Possibly the driver was
impaired and did not realize the signal was left on or notice a
“Drivers that do not follow basic safe travel rules of the road
create a hazard for everyone on the road,” Russ said.