Drivers have plenty of trouble when going the same or opposing directions, but when they cross paths mishaps become even higher. Those wrecks, named crossing path crashes, are often the most serious accident types. Wherever you cross paths with another vehicle, be aware of the traffic control there (or lack of it) and the applicable rules of the road at the intersection.
Many intersections here and elsewhere lack signs or lights. When drivers approach these crosshairs together, confusion, gesturing and stuttering stop-and-goes are common results.
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 subscribe to self-invented rules like, “My street is bigger than yours,” or “My hand-motion-to-go supersedes the rules.” Those actions can lead to crashes or road rage.
Behavior here is easy if one knows the color code. Most drivers realize that red means stop, but our local, Photo-Red camera system still generates endless tickets. And when driving through light-controlled intersections, don’t assume right-of-way simply because you approach a green light. Instead, momentarily lift your foot from the accelerator and quick-check traffic in both directions to verify no light runners are about to appear in your path. If you go through steady green lights with “blinders” on, results can be disastrous.
Make a similar quick-check when departing from a just-turned-green light. This is when there is a high likelihood of encountering a speeding driver trying to “beat the light.” Those trying to beat a light that is already red are likely to be doing so at a higher-than-normal speed.
The intent of these octagonal warnings is clear, but not always heeded. Maybe they should read “COMPLETE STOP” to encourage greater compliance. 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, incomplete stop is highly more likely to miss an approaching entity. And when there are opposing stop signs with two drivers facing one another, a left-turning driver must yield right of way to a driver heading straight.
Three and four-way stops
These multi-point stops can create more stalemates than a chess tournament. I’ll go — no, he’s going. You go — oops, she’s going.
Essentially, these intersections dictate the first-come, first-served rule — drivers departing in the order they arrived. If everyone arrives at about the same time, however, there’s no rule for the quandary. And 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 one of the rare 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 lights or stop signs) slow and direct traffic at intersections, while 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.