Editorials

Letter prompts a review of troublesome traffic laws

The Herald published an interesting letter to the editor Nov. 28.

It read:

Use turn signals

I've been wondering for some time why a roundabout intersection is any different than any other intersection. When you approach an intersection, the law says you must signal which way you are going to turn, if you plan to turn. Why does hardly anyone signal approaching a roundabout intersection? There has been a lot of conversation about the dangers of these roundabouts and I believe this habit would prevent a lot of the problems. -- Sherrill Savery

Her letter deserves an answer, since her experiences are entirely in agreement with our own. Here it is, authenticated by the local and state offices of the Washington Department of Transportation. (Details available in the current Driver's Manual online at dol.wa.gov).

"Once a gap in traffic appears, merge into the roundabout and proceed to your exit. Look for pedestrians and use your turn signal before you exit. If there is no traffic in the roundabout, you may enter without yielding."

The manual does not mention the use of directional indicators on entering traffic circles.

Some Tri-Citians, who have driven in England, found it is the law that directional indicators be used more thoroughly.

Their rules go like this (for simplicity's sake we have reversed the directions involved and ignored the fact that in Great Britain they drive on the other side of the road):

Upon entering the circle, signal a right turn if you are taking the first exit; signal a left turn if you are NOT taking the first exit.

While in the circle, continue to signal left until your vehicle has moved past all the turns except the one you intend to make. Then signal right as soon as you can before your exit.

That's the Britain, remember, not us.

But we do see, rarely, a Tri-City car or two following those rules.

Here are some other driving peculiarities that are rampant in the Tri-Cities:

* Hand-held cellphones while driving. It almost seems as if the Legislature never passed a law banning it.

* Delayed directional signals. The law says signal 100 feet before starting the turn, not simultaneously with turning.

* Crossing a solid white line on the pavement. Those lines are considered curbing and it's an offense while entering from a ramp to cross the white lines to get ahead of the car in front of you, even if you intend to use that lane later on.

* Supposedly, we use the right lanes for travel and left lanes for passing (on multi-laned roads). Many, many and we mean many Tri-Citians turn into the far lane and just ride in it.

"Just riding" in the left lane is problematical. The best example is Highway 395 approaching the blue bridge from the south. Most local drivers know that road is going to split into one lane for a right turn into Kennewick and one lane to cross the bridge. If everyone stayed in the right lane until they reached that intersection, we'd have traffic backed up to Hermiston.

Back to roundabouts. Yield to traffic already in the circle, even if you're going straight ahead on a major road.

Cyclists have the same rights you do to use the roadway, even if you have to slow down for awhile. Most will give way but don't try to intimidate them. We know some cops who ride bikes, and even if they can't catch up to you, they can remember your license plate.

Don't use grandpa as a crutch. A disabled person tag or plate is valid only if a state licensed disabled person is in the vehicle.

We didn't mean to get into so much detail, but we've only skimmed the surface.

The most urgent message from the Department of Transportation and law enforcement officers, issued over and over, is to practice safety. Watch out for pedestrians, be really cautious around school kids, give children on sidewalks and work crews on highways as wide a berth as you can.

Sherrill, we hope this helped.

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