Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road: Can drivers ignore traffic laws?

Downtown intersections, like this one at East Holly Street and North State Street in Bellingham,  are often busy for both drivers and pedestrians.
Downtown intersections, like this one at East Holly Street and North State Street in Bellingham, are often busy for both drivers and pedestrians. The Bellingham Herald

Question: Are cars and trucks required to follow traffic rules? I walk through downtown daily and frequently see cars speeding, going through red lights, turning without signaling, entering intersections they are unable to clear before the light cycles (blocking up traffic going in the other direction), failing to yield to pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks, and illegally passing. On a one-mile walk, I'm likely to see at least five such violations of traffic laws.

Answer: My tongue in cheek answer would be no, cars and trucks don’t need to follow the traffic rules, but the driver operating them does. Cars and trucks are just tools; it is the person operating them that actually causes the problems.

At this point, we have not found a way to cause all drivers to obey the traffic laws, other than writing tickets to the few that the officers are able to observe. It is amazing to see how much better most drivers follow the rules when they see a patrol car. The best advice I can provide is to be constantly alert to the poor drivers and anticipate the likely actions so you aren’t surprised by them.

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 serves on the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. For previous Rules of the Road columns or to ask a question, go to bellinghamherald.com/<code_dp>news/traffic/rules-of-the-road/

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