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


Correct driving matters

For reasons I don’t fully understand, some drivers fail to conform to regulations governing simple driving procedures.  Whether it’s ignorance of those laws or simply a refusal to follow them, many drivers regularly operate their vehicles in non-compliance with basic rules of the road.

Some actions reflect driver defiance, while other infractions arise out of indifference or oblivion.  For example, I think everyone is aware of the existence of speed limits, but many drivers defiantly exceed them.  Other erroneous behaviors are borne of a combination of factors such as forgetfulness, laziness, sloppiness or ignorance of the law.

A common mistake I regularly witness is drivers not making turns into proper lanes onto their destination street.  Time after time, sloppy or oblivious drivers aim their vehicles directly to the right-hand lane of the adjoining street, for example, when making a left turn.  Correspondingly, many make a bee-line for the left lane of the perpendicular street after making a right turn.

I am not the only one to notice this typical driver shortcoming, evidenced by an email from reader T.G noting, “Please address the turning into proper lanes — there isn’t one out of 20 that do it correctly in Spokane.  You are supposed to turn, whether right or left into the nearest lane. No one does it — go look at the Argonne Trent intersection — people turning south from eastbound Trent cross 3 lanes of traffic — people turning south from westbound Trent cross 3 lanes of traffic, which end results in clogging up traffic.”

Here’s how Washington law treats the topic in RCW 46.61.290:  (1) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.  (2) Left turns. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle.

Therefore, to be legal, even if you plan on making a left turn from the street you just made a right turn onto, you must travel a reasonable distance in the right-hand lane before signaling and moving to the left lane in preparation for your subsequent left-hand turn.  Similarly, you are out of accordance with the law if you don’t travel some distance in the left-hand lane after a left turn onto a “new” street, before signaling and moving right.

Proper turns are to be made at 90 degrees and into the nearest lane, not at a 45 degree angle to an adjacent lane.  I have ridden with Washington State Patrol Troopers who regularly cite drivers for this.  The latest ticket I saw written was to a driver who turned left onto Division Street and instantly angled to the right-hand lane across three others.  You can do that if you want, but if you are caught, it will cost you!

The published set of driving rules is intended to create order on the roadways by specifying safe, efficient behaviors that are predicable to all drivers.

As I often point out, it pays to know the rules of the road.  Having that knowledge and a willingness to comply with those guidelines will help you enhance safety for yourself and others.  Additionally, you’ll improve traffic flow while avoiding tickets and the wrath of fellow drivers.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at