Rules of the Road: Does every car at stop sign have to stop at line?


Question: I am the second car stopped at a stop sign. I am stopped and have a good view of traffic on the other street. The first car goes and traffic is still clear. Do I have to stop again as the "first" car at the stop sign, or have I fulfilled my duty to stop when I was behind the other car? How about if I was the third car in line?

Answer: You will need to stop at the stop sign (a full stop, not a rolling stop) after the first vehicle has safely entered or crossed the other street. Each vehicle that comes to the stop sign must stop prior to proceeding into or across the intersection.

This falls under RCW 46.61.190, Vehicle entering stop or yield intersection. (2) Except when directed to proceed by a duly authorized flagger, or a police officer, or a firefighter vested by law with authority to direct, control, or regulate traffic, every driver of a vehicle approaching a stop sign shall stop at a clearly marked stop line, but if none, before entering a marked crosswalk on the near side of the intersection or, if none, then at the point nearest the intersecting roadway where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting roadway before entering the roadway, and after having stopped shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another roadway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time when such driver is moving across or within the intersection or junction of roadways.

Q: 1. Can I just pull over on the side of any road where there isn't a "No Parking" sign? 2. If I'm on a single lane road and the side of the road is undeveloped but flat enough for me to pull off on, can I just pull off and sit there?

A: 1. In general, no. Some roadways do not need no parking signs due to the roadway itself. If you can't get out of the traveled portion of a roadway, you usually can't stop. There are often exceptions in residential areas, however. 2. Generally, I would say no. Most roads allow for pulling off to the side of the road for emergencies, not to just "sit there."


Rules of the Road is a regular column with questions and answers on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices.

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

For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to

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