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


Love the one you’re with

Stephen Stills’ song lyric suggests loving the one you’re with, but while driving, Washington law cautions against showing it.  Amorous relationships may “make the world go ‘round,” but a Revised Code of Washington traffic law reminds us to curb the distraction of affection while in the driver’s seat.

Common sense should dictate focusing on driving while driving, but evidently, a lover’s potential distraction is enough of a reality for Washington lawmakers to address the issue.

Within Washington’s Rules of the Road, RCW 41.61.655, titled Embracing another while driving, reads:  It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state when such person has in his or her embrace another person which prevents the free and unhampered operation of such vehicle. Operation of a motor vehicle in violation of this section is prima facie evidence of reckless driving.

So, lawmakers are concerned enough about the lure of love manifesting itself on the road that they not only wrote the law, but made the violation qualify as reckless driving!

In motor vehicles, drivers should pull over and stop to accomplish safe embracing, as with texting.  However, there is a “loophole” in the RCW that infers that there may be a level of embrace allowable if it does not prevent “free and unhampered” operation of the vehicle.  Nevertheless, I would not recommend testing or “pushing” the limits of that law.

There are plenty of such slightly obscure traffic laws on the books in every state, with no shortage of them in Washington.  I suppose that as unusual violations occur, laws must be passed to address them in the hopes of covering all imaginable driver behaviors.

Drivers may be vaguely aware of some of these laws, but unsure of specifics.  For example, most drivers have heard about not leaving an unattended vehicle running, but there are more details in the actual law.  RCW 46.61.100 reads:  No person driving or in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit it to stand unattended without first stopping the engine, locking the ignition, removing the key and effectively setting the brake thereon and, when standing upon any perceptible grade, turning the front wheels to the curb or side of the highway.

By including the requirement to turn the front wheels on a “perceptible grade” the law has added one more citable cause to the infraction in addition to those of stopping the engine, removing the key and setting the brake.  In other words, it’s easy to be in violation of the law without even knowing it.

RCW 46.61.608, in part, reminds motorcyclists:  No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of traffic or between adjacent lines or rows of vehicles.  Motorcycles shall not be operated more than two abreast in a single lane.

Riding between lanes of stopped traffic may be legal in California, but not here!  And speaking of obscure laws, it’s hard to reckon the need for RCW 46.61.612, but it specifies:  No person shall ride a motorcycle in a position where both feet are placed on the same side of the motorcycle.

I did not know that a wheelchair can’t be legally operated on a public roadway having a speed limit over 35 mph (or that anyone might want to), but RCW 46.61.730 forbids it!

It’s advisable to know the rules of the road for your state, especially the uncommon ones.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at