Rules of the Road: Does car turning left or right get to go first?

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDMay 12, 2014 

Question: A vehicle is in a left-turn lane with a solid green light preparing to turn onto a two-lane street. There is an oncoming vehicle preparing to make a right on to the same street. Who has the right of way?

Answer: The oncoming vehicle that is making the right turn would have the right of way. Both vehicles in this case have a green signal, so the right-turning vehicle would be the favored vehicle.

Q: None of the many articles regarding the "Slow Down, Move Left" law have quantified what "slow down" means. To the stationary emergency worker it probably means one speed in all circumstances, but to the driver "slow down" is different on the interstate than on a city street.

So, what should the "slow down" speed be on Interstate 5 where the posted speed is 60 mph for a driver in the left lane? In the right lane when he can't move over? On Guide Meridian where the posted speed is 50 mph? On a two-lane, two-way road where the posted speed is 45 mph? Or 25 mph?

They must have some criteria they use to issue a citation.

A: RCW 46.61.212 is the guiding law for this. There are many sections to this law, so you can access it online to read the full text. The best rule of thumb is to move to an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so. If you can't safely change lanes, you need to slow down and proceed with caution past the emergency vehicle (which includes police, fire, tow trucks, and state Department of Transportation vehicles with their warning signals activated). Subsection 2 of the law states, "A person may not drive a vehicle in an emergency zone (200 feet before and after all of the above vehicles) at a speed greater than the posted speed limit."

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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