Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road: Who has to yield when merging onto I-5?

Question: I know this question has been asked before, but here it is again. Civility may call for a different response, but I am curious about the actual legal requirements for cars on Interstate 5 and cars on an on-ramp without a light or yield sign. Who is legally responsible for yielding when a car is entering traffic on I-5?

Answer: If traffic is clear on I-5, it is helpful for traffic to move over and allow cars to merge, but it is not required of them. If you are entering the freeway from an on-ramp, you are merging into traffic that has the right of way to the use of the lane. Merge, as defined means “to blend or come together without abrupt change .”

RCW 46.61.195 Arterial highways designated - This portion of the RCW indicates that “All state highways are hereby declared to be arterial highways as respects all other public highways or private ways”

It goes on to say ”The operator of any vehicle entering upon any arterial highway from any other public highway or private way shall come to a complete stop before entering the arterial highway when stop signs are erected as provided by law.”

RCW 47.36.110 Stop signs, “Yield” signs — Duties of persons using highway: “When the findings of a traffic engineering study show that the condition of an intersection is such that vehicles may safely enter the major artery without stopping, the department or local authorities in their respective jurisdictions shall install and maintain a “Yield” sign.” Most of our on-ramps do not have stop signs/lights. There are some in the Pierce, King, and Snohomish county areas. I don’t recall any of our on-ramps not having Yield signs, but there may be some that are missing.

Additionally, RCW 46.61.305 When signals required “1) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.” If you are entering the freeway from an on-ramp and you are involved in a crash, the driver who was entering the freeway will be ticketed for “Failure to Yield Right of Way.”

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