Rules of the Road: Do Canadians have to follow Washington traffic laws?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDAugust 11, 2013 

Question: Is there any laws for drivers from Canada to have knowledge of the rules of the road down here in America? With the increase of Canadian tourism, it's easy to spot who makes mistakes on the road. Every time I see a car doing an illegal U-turn, I look at their plates and they are from Canada. Another thing I see them do is at stop signs where they maybe tap their brakes but don't slow down and just run right through it, cutting other drivers off from their turn to go. I know Americans make mistakes driving too, but not as intentionally as our northern neighbors. How lenient is our legal system on them? Is there a three-strike system?

Answer: The rules of the road apply to any driver in the state of Washington. The drivers from Canada have to follow the same rules about stopping at stop signs and not making illegal U-turns as any other driver. I must disagree that they are the only drivers doing this. I see as many Washington-plated vehicles doing the same violations. The legal system is the same for all.

The other thing to realize is that we have reciprocity with British Columbia, so any violation here (for a Canadian) or in B.C. (for a Washington driver) is reported to the respective licensing department.

Q: I see a lot of cars and vans with rear bicycle racks that hide the license plate. Is this legal?

A: The short answer is no. The law requires that the rear license be visible at all times.

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Rules of the Road is an online forum with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. To ask a question, use this form.

David Wright is a retired officer from the Bellingham Police Department who is now on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force.

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