Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Lane rights and fights

There has been much discussion here over roadway conflicts between vehicles of varying types, sizes and speeds, and how aggravation can result.  Bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, small trucks and large trucks must all share the same roads despite their differing configuration, mass and maneuverability.  Without some empathy and accommodation, there can be no harmony.

A note from reader G.S. exemplifies such a scenario.  Recounting a recent experience with a semi truck on I-5, he wrote “I was traveling north with my family and in the right lane of I-5 where it is 4 lanes wide.  A semi tractor with empty trailer was next to me in the center lane.  At some point I became aware of the semi’s turn signal, and accelerated to get out of the truck’s way.  At the same time, it seemed like the driver of the semi wanted instead to get in front of me, despite my being abreast of the front of the semi tractor.  This may have had something to do with the weigh station coming up.”

And he described the conflict, stating, “What ensued was a somewhat sad display of the semi keeping pace with me, even at one point moving partway into my lane to bully me into slowing, to achieve their apparent goal.  As my lane slowly advanced the driver of the semi tailgated the person in front of them to try and stay in line with me, despite plenty of room to move in behind me.  Eventually they weren’t successful.”

Next came the aggravation, when G.S. noted, “The driver honked their very loud horn and made some gesture that neither I nor my nervous wife and child could make out, but I was very shaken by the experience.  It seemed like he was having a bad day, but I was left wondering if I had made a faux pas of some kind by not yielding to him to move into my lane despite my being well abreast if not advancing on him.  Are semis required to be in the right lane near weigh stations?  If so, isn’t it their responsibility, not mine, to ensure they’re in the correct lane?  What do you have to say about the legality and courtesy of such situations?”

As aforementioned, size and speed disparities among vehicles can cause conflict at times.  And at other times, truckers may take advantage of their larger size and be perceived as bullies. It sounds like G.S. may have been a victim of both phenomena.

I empathize with his experience of the adjacent, unpredictable, huge and possibly bullying truck.  As he pointed out, such encounters leave one shaken.

Without knowing the exact vehicle positions at the start of the incident, I can only make some suppositions.  As I see it, hindsight being 20/20, the only way to have had a different outcome would have been for G.S. to slow slightly when he saw the truck’s turn signal rather than accelerate, especially if the truck was directly aside G.S and in the process of overtaking him.

With a preconception that trucks are slower than cars, I can see why G.S. sped up to get out of the truck’s way, but the truck driver was likely already accelerating to get in front of G.S.  Also, the trucker may have been aware of a phrase in the text of an RCW (46.61.110) pertaining to vehicles being overtaken on the left:  overtaken traffic shall give way to the right in favor of an overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase speed until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

There is no law requiring semis to be in the right lane near weigh stations, but if the weigh station is open they are required to stop at it.  It would have been better if the trucker had taken the right-hand lane well in advance of the weigh station and avoided competing with G.S. to get there, but one could also avoid conflict in that situation by backing off slightly to let the truck by.

Evidently, this time, the trucker viewed G.S.’s acceleration as confrontational instead of accommodating, and such misperceptions are impossible to control!

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at