When vehicles meet at roadway intersections they hopefully avoid contact. But serious “crossing path” crashes at these traffic crosshairs are among the most frequent accident types. Upon encountering intersections, please take note of the traffic control (or lack of it) present and the governing rules applicable there.
We have an abundance of intersections with no signs or lights. When vehicle drivers arrive there together, confusion, gesturing and stuttering stop-and-goes ensue.
It’s best to defer to the rules of the road in these cases, using Revised Code of Washington 46.61.180 as a guide. It reads, “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.”
Don’t initiate self-invented rules like, “I go first because my street is bigger than yours,” or “My arm-motion trumps your hand-wave.”
Compliance here is obvious if you know the color code. Most drivers realize that red means stop, but our local Photo-Red camera system still perpetually creates tickets-in-the-mail.
When driving through light-controlled intersections, don’t assume right-of-way. As you approach a green light, briefly release the accelerator and quick-check traffic in both directions to verify no light runners are about to appear in your path. Many drivers boldly drive through steady green lights with “blinders” on, which is often okay, but can sometimes be disastrous.
Take a similar check when leaving a fresh green light. It’s when there is a high likelihood of encountering a speeding driver trying to “make the light” before it turns red — but it already has.
And please remember, according to RCW 46.61.055, upon a red indication you may, after making a complete stop, unless prohibited by signage, turn right onto a two-way or one-way street carrying traffic in the proper direction, and turn left from both a one-way or two-way onto a one-way street carrying traffic in the turning direction.
The message of these octagonal warnings is clear, yet not always heeded. Maybe they should read “COMPLETE STOP” to suggest the legal requirement. A complete stop gives drivers ample time to check for the absence of cross traffic, pedestrians and bicycles. A driver in a hurry, making a rolling stop is more likely to suffer “intellectual blindness,” which is seeing a potential obstacle but not mentally registering it.
Three and four-way stops
These multi-position stops create continual standoffs: You go — no, you go — I’ll go — now she’s going. Essentially, these intersections employ the first-come, first-served rule. Drivers should depart in the order they arrived. If everyone arrives at about the same time, however, there’s no rule for the quandary — everyone is on someone else’s right!
A cooperative mixture of courtesy, boldness, tolerance, timing, quick thinking and periodic hand gestures is necessary to navigate these crossings successfully. They are among the gray areas or free-for-alls of driving and regularly test driver resolve.
Roundabouts are designed to eliminate many of the difficulties surrounding other intersections. They passively (without signal lights) slow and direct traffic at intersections, virtually eliminating tragic “T-bone” crashes.
You may freely enter roundabouts, only stopping if necessary to yield to traffic already within the roundabout. Once within the circle, simply signal and exit the roundabout to accomplish a right, straight, left, or u-turn direction of travel.
Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.