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HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE “RULES OF THE ROAD”?

March 5, 2020 • by Wiener & Lambka

Most of us are (hopefully!!) well acquainted with the basic rules of driving, such as always driving to the right, obeying the basic speed law, the mandatory use of turn signals, and obeying all traffic and road signs. But the Rules of the Road, or RCW 46.61 et seq, is MUCH more detailed than you might imagine, and if you have not reviewed them in a while, you might want to take a bit of time and give them another look.

There are many, many somewhat obscure provisions of RCW 46.61, but they are just as binding and enforceable as their better-known counterparts.

For example, did you know that your duty to obey the traffic commands of a police officer also extends to obeying firemen and flaggers (RCW 46.61.015)? Or that your duty to obey a police officer’s commands includes the duty to supply that officer with not only your name and address, but the name and address of the vehicle’s owner, the proof of registration and insurance on the vehicle, your driver’s license, and that the police officer has the right to take and examine all of that information (RCW 46.61.020)?

It may surprise you to learn that you have a duty to fully comply with the Rules of the Road while riding an animal, just as if you were driving a car (RCW 46.61.025).

While we all know that you should never pull out into traffic until it is clear and safe to do so, did you know that the Rules of the Road prohibit even starting your vehicle until it is safe to do so (RCW 46.61.300)?

Passing a stopped school bus that has its lights flashing is reckless and illegal, but if the school bus driver files a report on your behavior, did you know that the police “shall” investigate the matter, and can still cite you even days later (RCW 46.61.372)?

You know that you should never speed, but were you aware that RCW 46.61.465 makes exceeding the speed limit prima facie (on its face) evidence of reckless driving? And reckless driving, under RCW 46.61.520 is punishable by almost a year in jail AND a $5,000 fine?

When you park, you undoubtedly know to pull as far to the right and as close to the curb as you can, but you may not know that if you are further than 12” from the curb you can be cited (RCW 46.61.575)

We all see motorcyclists riding down the freeway between the designated lanes, but that practice is expressly illegal under RCW 46.61.608(3), and motorcycles which have handlebars higher than 30” above the seat or saddle are likewise illegal (RCW 46.61.630).

Have you ever tried to save gasoline by shifting into neutral and coasting down long, downhill stretches of road? Not only is this dangerous, but it, too, is illegal (RCW 46.61.630)

Many teenagers think it is a lark to race along behind firetrucks which are speeding to an emergency, catching all the green lights, but this dangerous practice is illegal under RCW 46.61.635. Indeed, did you know it is illegal to be closer than 500’ behind a firetruck, even if it is stopped (RCW 46.61.640)? And don’t even think about driving over a fire hose. That’s illegal too (RCW 46.61.640).

Most to be good custodians of our planet and not litter, even if flicking cigarettes, food wrappers or other trash out the window was not illegal. But did you know that you, as the vehicle’s operator, have the duty to “immediately remove” any trash tossed out the windows of your car, even if you merely permitted others in your car to do it?

We love our dogs, and they seem to love riding unsecured in the beds of our trucks. But RCW 46.61.660 prohibits the transport of “any living animal” on the outside of any vehicle, including the roof, fenders, hood, truck bed or running boards. Needless to say, people also count as “living animals”!!

Love is swell, but not “embracing” while driving!! Not only is this a distraction for the driver and highly dangerous, but, under RCW 46.61.665, also prima facie evidence of reckless driving.

By now the perils of texting while driving is well known but, effective January 1, 2019, RCW 46.61.668 on the subject has been repealed in favor of a much more stringent, anti-cell phone law. Now, it is illegal to even hold a cell phone, even when the vehicle is stopped, and “texting” has been expanded to include composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, seeing or retrieving texts, and this also applies to emails, text messages, instant messages, photos or any electronic data (there is an exception for “the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature of the device”)

Did you know that traffic laws also apply to bicycle riders (RCW 46.61.755) and yes, you may ride a bicycle on the sidewalk (RCW 46.61.261 and 46.61.755(2)? However, when you do so you must abide by all of the rules which pedestrians must follow (RCW 46.61.230-275)

…and don’t get caught cutting into the line of cars waiting to board a Washington ferry (RCW 46.61.735)!!

In short, the Rules of the Road are there to keep everyone (including you!) safe, and if you haven’t reviewed them since you took your Washington Drivers Exam, you might want to give them another glance. And soon!

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