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


Exceptions to the rules

I previously recounted a reader’s episode experienced while passing a left-turning vehicle within the city limits of a small town north of Spokane.

In that instance, the driver of the turning vehicle attempted to thwart the reader’s pass with a blocking move.  My reaction was that controlling others’ driving is ill-advised and that passing a left-turner on a paved roadway wide enough for two vehicles is okay.

Both bits of advice are valid, except, the “okay” to pass if it occurs in certain small towns, as pointed out by two readers.  They supplied reminders that local municipalities may have their own exceptions to the rules.

I didn’t name the small town where the original event occurred, but reader S.R. guessed it was Chewelah — a town with some special traffic rules.  If the right-hand pass of the left-turning vehicle took place there, the left-turner’s outrage may have had basis, as explained by S.R., “One of the few places that meets the description north of Spokane about turning left into a grocery store is Chewelah. If that is the case, the guy that wrote to you was violating the law and possibly passing on the right at a pedestrian crosswalk.”

She continued, “At the Safeway store in Chewelah, there is a crosswalk on 395 between its parking lot and the drug store. Some years ago, I had stopped for a pedestrian on that crosswalk and a vehicle passed me on the right. The driver was local, so I stopped by the police department and asked them to talk with the driver and explain why I was stopped. Not long after that, the City of Chewelah banned passing on the right in town. There are a number of signs on the highway in town stating it is illegal.”

And she concluded, “I suspect the guy that wrote you was being harassed because he was passing on the right in a no passing zone near a pedestrian crossing.”

We must be vigilant for signage appearing in any town expressing unique traffic requirements.  Another message came in from Rathdrum reader, G.C., pointing out a similar rule there.  He wrote, “Coming into town on S.R. 41 from the south, there are two white regulatory signs approximately 1/4-mile apart. [Apparently, they forbid right-hand passes]. In the past, people use to pass on the right quite frequently. With the extreme amount of traffic that this State Route has each day, it is totally illegal to do it; tickets are now given if you should have a lapse of memory.”

These are good examples of cities posting exceptions or additions to motor vehicle traffic codes.  They also remind us of safety concerns around crosswalks.

In her story, S.R. implies that any stationary vehicle might be stopped for a person crossing the road.  This is an all-too-common plight for pedestrians.  Regularly, when crossing in front of a stopped car or truck, pedestrians will encounter a vehicle that is not stopping, whizzing by in an adjacent lane.  That’s why Chewelah and Rathdrum have deemed passing stopped vehicles on the right an illegal maneuver.

If a vehicle is stopped for a pedestrian near a crosswalk, the reason for the stop is more obvious than if the location is random.  Yesterday, I encountered a delivery van stopped in the left lane of an arterial a couple of car lengths short of a line of cars sitting at an intersection.  Approaching from right hand lane, I thought the driver was just leaving extra space behind the vehicle ahead, but I stopped abruptly when I spotted an individual on crutches emerge from the right front corner of the van.  This was not near a crosswalk and the van blocked any view of the pedestrian until he was nearly in front of me.  Still, upon seeing the van stopped, I should have immediately suspected that it may be for a pedestrian — instead, that had not registered until I saw the crutch tip!

I would advise any person afoot to use designated crosswalks and not surprise drivers with random jaywalks.  Nevertheless, drivers should expect a pedestrian’s presence whenever another vehicle is stopped in the roadway.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at