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


Road rules revisited

Do you know how to act in traffic encounters involving pedestrians, school busses, and emergency vehicles? Another glance at the rules of the road might lessen the consternation.

Foot traffic regularly makes drivers nervous — possibly due to lack of crosswalk-rule knowledge.  Everyone can identify a marked crosswalk, but in the absence of markings, law provides an unmarked crosswalk drivers must visualize and respect at every intersection.  Pedestrians have all of the same rights at an unmarked crosswalk as a marked one.

Spokane Municipal Code article listing 16.61.235 describes when to stop:  The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk, “when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning.”

That’s what law enforcement expects of us for compliance, but there are some more rules that drivers and walkers should know.

The Code prohibits a pedestrian or bicycle from suddenly leaving a curb, and walking, running, or otherwise moving into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.  Further, 16.61.240 states, “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway”, and, “Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation pedestrians shall not cross at any place except a crosswalk.” 

Summary Code wording is meant to keep drivers vigilant — 16.61.245 warns, notwithstanding the foregoing chapter provisions, “every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian upon and roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused or incapacitated person on a roadway.”

I’ve received e-mail questions about school bus encounters.  Code listing 16.61.370 makes things fairly clear:  Section 1 states the requirement to stop for a school bus with its flashing lights and fold-out stop sign when you approach from either direction.

Sections 2 and 3, however, clear up the gray areas drivers ponder: “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway divided into separate roadways need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is proceeding in the opposite direction and is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging children.” And, “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is proceeding in the opposite direction and is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging children.”

Drivers often behave oddly during interaction with police vehicles, fire trucks, and ambulances.  Doing the right thing takes a few moments out of your busy day, but these vehicles are on their way to help someone with bigger problems.

Proper driver action is specified in listing 16-61-210:  “Upon approach of an authorized emergency vehicle with audible and visual signals, every other vehicle shall yield right of way and shall immediately drive to a position parallel to, and as close as possible to, the right hand edge or curb of the roadway clear of any intersection, and shall stop and remain in position until the authorized emergency vehicle has passed.”

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at


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