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Emphasis patrols

I regularly hear drivers complain that law enforcement is too lax in observing and citing certain violations.  Improper turns, speeding, following too closely, or domination of the left lane are errors that we all see all too often. 

But rather than resulting from lack of enforcement, I believe that there are simply too many violators to catch.  Also, it may be impossible to catch enough of them to alter mass behavior.

State Troopers I have ridden with are decidedly vigilant while driving their shifts in police cruisers.  I’ve witnessed tickets and warnings for the violations listed above, along with more isolated infractions like improper infant car seat use, using a clear cover on a license plate, or having too-dark tinting on vehicle windows.

What happens, I expect, is that while a driver is being ticketed for a violation, there are likely several others committing the same offense elsewhere.  So, in that big numbers game, it’s hard to win.  Without the effort, however, offenses would undoubtedly be even more rampant.

The fleet of Troopers assigned to our roadways “keep a lid” on frequent and flagrant driver errors by simply observing and citing during their drives.  Additionally, though, the Washington State Patrol is almost always undergoing emphasis patrols for specified periods to increase the odds of catching more scofflaws making certain errors.

If anyone doubts that the WSP is serious about unwarranted use of the left lane on multi-lane roads, consider the June press release from Sergeant James Prouty proclaiming that left lane violators were to be targeted in late June.

His statement read, “RCW 46.61.100 requires all vehicles to keep right except when passing on multiple lane roadways. Left lane ‘campers’ are drivers who remain in the passing lane (left lane) for long periods of time without passing.”

And he further stated, “The WSP targets left lane violators to educate them on the consequences of “camping” in the left lane. Left lane camping can lead to road rage, aggressive driving, traffic congestion, and collisions. If you’re caught camping in the left lane it could result in a $136 ticket. The WSP would like to remind everyone to save their camping for the wilderness and not the left lane. Help us avoid the negative consequences of left lane camping by keeping right except to pass.” I could have not said it better myself.

Similar emphasis patrols, where extra Troopers focus extra time on certain violations in certain regions, take place throughout the year.

For example, also in late June, there was an emphasis patrol for speed violators on I-90 and SR 2 through Stevens Pass.  Such patrols are borne of accident statistics that reveal safety concerns on given roadways.  That press release reminded drivers that “speeding” does not only mean driving above the posted limit, but can mean driving too fast in bad weather or when roads are under construction.  Always try to plan ahead and leave ample time for your trip.

Emphasis patrols run throughout the year, targeting speeders, impaired drivers, behavior in the presence of commercial trucks, left-lane use, and others.  If you a consistent violator, you will eventually be cited — if not by one of the many WSP Troopers (or Sheriff or local police) on routine daily and nightly shifts, then by one of the highly focused emphasis patrols.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at

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