Rules of the Road: Who's at fault when car door hits passing bike?


Question: On Fielding Street behind REI there are two travel lanes and a center turn lane. Cars are parallel parked all along this street, making the travel lanes quite narrow. If you are traveling in your lane and a parked car throws open its door and you hit it, who is at fault? Same when I am riding my bike in a bike lane along parked cars. If I get hit by a door, who is responsible?

Answer: The person who opens the car door is at fault. The law for this is spelled out in RCW 46.61.620 Opening and closing vehicle doors - No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side adjacent to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle adjacent to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.

Q: Is a turn signal required when making a right, left or U-turn from a roundabout? I think the answer is yes, but so may drivers turn without signaling, clarification would be helpful. When drivers fail to signal, those entering the roundabout have to almost stop to see what the intentions are and then waste gas in accelerating.

A: Yes, using a turn signal when exiting the roundabout is required. The only signal one can use to exit the roundabout is a right-turn signal. As you enter the roundabout, you will signal your exit from it as soon as you are able to. If you are taking the first exit to the right, signal immediately. If you are taking the second exit to the right, signal as soon as you are passing the first exit. If you are taking the third exit, signal as soon as you are passing the second. By doing this, you allow drivers approaching to know where you plan to leave the roundabout, but don't mislead the drivers for the exit(s) you are not using. The Washington State Department of Transportation produced a series of videos on driving in roundabouts; find them on YouTube by searching "wsdot roundabout."



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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