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


U turns, squeaks and rollaways

U turn anxiety is a common driver affliction, as typified by a question from reader H.A.  He observed and wondered, “I was researching because I see often drivers traveling west on the NE 124th Street in Redmond stopping and making an U turn [across double-yellow lines] when they see congestion ahead in the intersection of 124th street and Willow Road.  They stop the traffic going west to do that.  Based on your article, it would be legal to turn into a drive way, alley or business, but they are not. So, it seems to me that they are making a violation. Do you agree?”

The turns H.A. described seem ill-advised, but may fall within a gray area of rule.  He referenced my column on the topic, wherein I noted that Washington road rules allow left turns across double yellow lines to access driveways, alleys and businesses.  Additionally, in Washington, U turns are allowed where they are not disallowed.  In other words, absent signage prohibiting U turns, they are allowed when “safe” according to law.  That opens up another gray area, determining what is or is not deemed “safe” on busy roads in traffic.  Some city jurisdictions (like Spokane) have supplemental code in their municipal law books prohibiting U turns in specified “congested areas” near the city core.  Redmond likely has some pertinent legal context in its own municipal code.

Absent city law regarding U turns, one might argue in court that such a maneuver is legal if it passes the “safe” test (not performed on hill, in heavy traffic or where vision is compromised for example) and there is no signage prohibiting it, since it is legal to cross the double yellow markings for turns into driveways, etc. 

In summary, however, when driver actions impede traffic or compromise the safety of other drivers, it is best to avoid those actions regardless of formal legality.

I wrote of the ongoing impact of major auto innovation last week, but smaller things are ever-evolving as well.  Techno Polymer America has developed a new thermoplastic resin dubbed “Hushaloy” that yields injection-molded plastic parts that do not squeak when in contact with each other.  The “drop-in” resin requires no process changes for manufacturers and does not contain additives such as silicone (as with previous “squeakless” formulas) that restrict paintability.

That’s good news for drivers (like me) who are bothered by unwanted squeaks and rattles.  And it may be even better news for reluctant passengers who are assigned the task of honing in on those noises by persistant drivers.

A common driver mistake is parking their car or truck and leaving the shift selector in “D.”  If on a slope, that vehicle becomes a rollaway.  GHSP has come up with a return-to-park technology that eliminates such driver error by automatically returning the transmission to “P” and applying the parking brake when the seat belt is unfastened and the engine is shut off.  The first customer for the simple but effective innovation is the Ford Fusion.

Even when vehicle appearance shows no major change, there is likely a lot of technology being applied where you can’t see it.  Engine components are ever-evolving, such as piston rings which are continuously being reengineered for longevity, better oil seal and lower friction.

As I’ve said before, “They don’t make ‘em like they used to and that’s probably a good thing.” 

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at