Rules of the Road: Do I need to wait for the sign to speed up to 70 mph on freeway?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDSeptember 28, 2013 

Question: When are you supposed to change speeds when a new speed is posted? Are you supposed to wait until you pass the sign to go the new speed or are you supposed to be going the new speed by the time you pass the sign?

It seems like there is a lot of variance in what drivers do. I notice this a lot on Interstate 5 when the speed changes from 60 mph to 70 going north and 70 to 60 going south.

People who regularly drive the road know the change is coming and seem to start going 70 before they can even see the sign. But then others wait until they pass the sign and then start going 70. So what's right?

Answer: Great question. The speed change from 60 to 70 does not happen until you reach the sign. If you are at the higher speed prior to that, you could be cited. The speed change from 70 to 60 is the same; you need to be at 60 when you reach the speed limit sign. The roads are all quite well marked with signs indicating the upcoming slower speed to allow drivers to slow before they reach it. By the way, the Washington State Patrol occasionally will work the area at the Bakerview Road on/off ramps for those drivers that "anticipate" the speed change.

Q: In reference to one of your answers in the August 12, 2013, column, are you sure Washington state and British Columbia have reciprocity so they report driver violations to each other? I've read several places that they do not.

A: I am glad you asked this. After the original answer was printed, I had a great talk with a municipal court clerk. Yes, we do have reciprocity with B.C. The caveat to that is they normally only report the alcohol- or drug-related criminal driving offenses to the British Columbia authorities.

The other part to this is for Canadian drivers who get cited in Washington and fail to pay their tickets. At least some of the courts will 1) send a letter notifying the driver that they have failed to appear; 2) send the bill to a collection agency; and 3) notify the Washington Department of Licensing of the failure to respond (which results in the driver's privilege to drive in Washington being suspended). That creates a whole new set of issues for them when next they come across the border.

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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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