Rules of the Road: Can I turn across double-yellow lines?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 17, 2014 

Questions: When turning in to the parking lot to the Fred Meyer on Lincoln Street in Bellingham, there are two yellow lines and a right turn arrow. Is it legal to cross the two yellow lines to make a left turn?

May you cross a double yellow to enter a driveway? I assume the answer is no, but I see so many people do it. An example of where this causes problems is westbound Grandview Road on the Interstate 5 overpass. Cars stop and try to turn south (left) into the gas station, holding up the traffic trying to get across Portal Way and the railroad tracks.

Answer: Crossing a double yellow line while making a left turn, in most cases, is legal. If the yellow lines are at least 18 inches apart, or if they have "cross hatching" between the yellow lines, they are then considered a barrier or median and crossing them is no longer allowed.

Here is the relevant law: RCW 46.61.150, Driving on divided highways. Whenever any highway has been divided into two or more roadways by leaving an intervening space or by a physical barrier or clearly indicated dividing section or by a median island not less than 18 inches wide formed either by solid yellow pavement markings or by a yellow crosshatching between two solid yellow lines so installed as to control vehicular traffic, every vehicle shall be driven only upon the right-hand roadway unless directed or permitted to use another roadway by official traffic-control devices or police officers. No vehicle shall be driven over, across or within any such dividing space, barrier or section, or median island, except through an opening in such physical barrier or dividing section or space or median island, or at a crossover or intersection established by public authority.

Q: I noticed one morning a vehicle driving on the wrong side of the road in Sandy Point. Thinking it might be a drunk driver, I called 911. The operator suggested it might be a newspaper delivery person and did not appear to take the report seriously. Are newspaper delivery people exempt from traffic laws?

A: No, newspaper delivery drivers are not exempt from the traffic laws. Many will drive on the wrong side of the road because it is easier to deliver their papers. They do still occasionally receive infractions for driving on the wrong side of the road.

ABOUT RULES OF THE ROAD

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 bellinghamherald.com/traffic.

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