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


Road rules getting attention

Last week I wrote that good driving requires knowledge of road rules and adherence to them.  Many readers sent email in support of that premise, especially when it comes to making proper turns.

Readers, who evidently care about proper driving, wrote to report of drivers they see ignoring the established rules of the road, and even named their “favorite” locations where it happens. 

For example, reader S.R. opined, “I have noticed an increase in this not staying in your lane on right and left hand turns.  This town has two intersections which are the worst.  Those being, Division and Francis Ave, either going east or west on Francis and turning south or north on Division.  I have learned to stay in the far left lane at that intersection; too many times these lazy drivers go the center or far right lane while I’m in the right lane at the intersection.  The worst is the one at the “Y” on Division and Newport Hwy. My two cents worth.”

By the way, the law requiring turns into the nearest lane of the adjoining street does not apply where there are multiple lanes available for either right or left turns. In those cases, drivers must pay attention to turning into their designated lane.  Often, those locales have lane markings to help guide drivers into the proper lane — in the absence of those painted guidelines, drivers must not “lose count” of which lane they came from.

C.N. has seen plenty of driver failure too, noting, “Thank you (!!!) for your excellent column on proper turning procedures. I drive hundreds of miles per week in my job and am shocked at the ignorance of other drivers. I hope you will consider a future article on right of way, specifically at 4-way stops and unmarked residential intersections.”

Regarding right of way at 4-way stops, the basic rules are simple but also give rise to another driving gray area.  It’s basically a “first-come, first served” procedure at 4-way stops, and drivers should depart in the order they arrived at the intersection.  If two vehicles arrive and are stopped at the same time, the driver on the left must yield to the driver on the right.  The gray area shows up when all four vehicles arrive at the same time.  Then, it’s essentially a free-for-all where drivers must depend on cooperation and courtesy to maintain orderly activity.

Revised Code of Washington 46.61.180 applies at unmarked (no stop or yield signs) or uncontrolled (no traffic lights) intersections.  That law proclaims:  When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

That is the rule to follow at the “unmarked residential intersections” referenced by C.N.  It is not recommended for a driver with the legal right of way to exhibit misplaced courtesy by stopping and encouraging the driver without the right of way to proceed.  Those hand-signaled “waves to go” are sometimes hard to decipher or may not be seen at all through window tint and glare.  Such “courtesy” creates confusion, and in the event of a collision, fault will be assigned to the driver of the vehicle on the left.

State driver guides and the rules of the road section within state statutes constitute worthy reading material for drivers.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at