Rules of the Road: How do I handle the flaggers at the State Street roundabout construction?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 4, 2013 

Boulevard Closed

Ram Construction foreman Bob Carbee moves a stop sign at the Wharf Street roundabout construction site in Bellingham Friday morning, July 26, 2013.

PHILIP A. DWYER — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Question: As the roundabout progresses at State/Wharf/Boulevard in Bellingham, stop signs are at intersections of State headed north and south. With flaggers present, with "slow" signs, is there an obligation to stop at these signs? How about without flaggers present, such as after hours?

At peak hours, with or without flaggers present, it would seem an impediment to traffic flow to stop, and stopping itself could create a hazardous condition. This same condition, without flags, exists where the State Street detour re-enters Boulevard south of the construction site. Boulevard is closed, yet the stop sign remains and creates the same traffic conditions as its northern counterpart.

Answer: If the flaggers are present, you need to follow the directions of the flaggers. If they indicate stop, stop. If they indicate slow, you do not need to stop. If the flaggers are not present, the posted signs need to be followed.

The following laws apply: RCW 46.61.050 Obedience to and required traffic control devices. (1) The driver of any vehicle, every bicyclist, and every pedestrian shall obey the instructions of any official traffic control device applicable thereto placed in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a traffic or police officer, subject to the exception granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter.

RCW 46.61.015 Obedience to police officers, flaggers, or firefighters - Penalty. (1) No person shall willfully fail or refuse to comply with any lawful order or direction of any duly authorized flagger or any police officer or firefighter invested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic.

By the way, ignoring the flagger's directions isn't a traffic infraction; it's a misdemeanor crime.

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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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