When I wrote of lesser-known rules of the road, reader M.S. took note. In an earlier column, I described the Washington law forbidding embrace of another while driving. It reminded M.S. of another behavior he feels should be prohibited by law.
M.S. wrote, “Your column made me recall an incident, fortunately in a residential, low-speed area. A driver had a very large dog in his lap with its head hanging out the window and [the driver was] holding a very large hamburger in one hand...coming towards us. Rather discomfiting! Some laws seem ridiculous, i.e., common sense ought to be sufficient, but then you see something like this.”
Unless the driver is embracing his dog, the “no embracing” rule would not likely apply to the scenario M.S. described. But there is a “catchall” law in Washington’s rules of the road, titled “Obstructions to driver’s view or driving mechanism,” that probably would.
Revised Code of Washington 46.61.615 reads, in part: No passenger in a vehicle shall ride in such position as to interfere with the driver’s view ahead or to the sides, or to interfere with his or her control over the driving mechanism of the vehicle.
I think that rule could apply to any dog (defined as passenger) in any driver’s lap, but especially a driver with a “very large dog” and a “very large hamburger.”
M.S. also expressed his concern for cars stopping aside the roadway in congested traffic areas for tire changing, police pullovers or any other reason. After recounting a story of a man who was sideswiped and killed on Idaho’s Highway 53 while changing a tire, he insisted that it makes sense to find an extra-wide spot, a driveway, or a freeway exit to pull over for any reason.
When pulling over for your own reasons, M.S.’s suggestions have merit. However, when a law officer initiates a pullover, they might consider your offense worse if you continue driving to find a “safe haven.” There was a story reported earlier this year about a woman seeking a well-lit, populated area to pull over when “lit up” by the police, who was subsequently arrested for not pulling over immediately.
I found no specific law addressing the topic, but the Washington State Patrol Website offers guidelines indicating that they MAY have some patience with drivers who continue after seeing a police cruiser’s activated lights.
The WSP Website specifies: As soon as you notice the emergency lights, pull your vehicle safely over to the right and stop when it is safe.
It’s evident to me that there is a gray area within that requirement of stopping “when it is safe.” If I were cited for not pulling over immediately due to seeking a spot I deemed safe, I would head to court and use the WSP Website excerpt above, explaining that I was seeking a safe, well-lit area in which to stop — one that would be safe for the officer to exit his or her vehicle.
If you see police lights in your mirror, you should IMMEDIATELY activate your right turn signal to alert the officer of your awareness. Then, pull over as soon as possible in a safe, well-lit place that won’t put you or the officer at risk.
Finally, never exit your vehicle during a traffic stop. WSP troopers I’ve ridden with have stated that such action indicates “fight or flight” to them, and may cause escalation.
Readers may contact Bill Love via email at email@example.com.