Rules of the Road

How far can tires extend outside the body of a pickup truck?

A pickup truck sits parked along Cornwall Avenue on Tuesday, March 15, in Bellingham. Tires can’t extend farther than the truck fender in Washington state.
A pickup truck sits parked along Cornwall Avenue on Tuesday, March 15, in Bellingham. Tires can’t extend farther than the truck fender in Washington state. eabell@bhamherald.com

Question: How far can tires legally extend outside the body of a pickup?

Answer: Sometimes I wonder if when I answer a question I’m unwittingly assisting someone in winning an argument. So I have my own question in response to this one: Are you asking because you want to make sure your pickup complies with the law, or because you made a bet? I’m OK with either option; I’m just curious.

Tires cannot project beyond the vehicle at all without some sort of protection. The Revised Code of Washington states, “No person may operate any motor vehicle that is not equipped with fenders, covers, flaps, or splash aprons adequate for minimizing the spray or splash of water or mud from the roadway to the rear of the vehicle.”

Relying on just this rule, you might get the impression that the tire can stick out past the fender as long as there is a mud flap behind it. However, Washington Administrative Code 204-10-022 provides additional details, including the requirement that the fender cover the entire tread width of the tire.

There is a provision that allows vintage vehicles and street rods to forgo fenders or mudflaps, but only in limited situations. Unless the pickup in question is more than 40 years old, worthy of being called a collector’s item and only driven on paved roads in good weather, the tires cannot extend past the fender.

Question: Why are some roads marked “Dead End” and some marked “No Outlet”? Is there a difference?

No Outlet 1
A “No Outlet” sign marks the start of Dumas Avenue on Jan. 26, 2016, in Bellingham. Evan Abell eabell@bhamherald.com

Answer: One theory is that wealthy neighborhoods petitioned to eliminate “Dead End” signs from their streets because it reflected poorly on the status of their residents. But that’s completely untrue.

There’s a manual that all traffic engineers use when determining appropriate sign usage. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices specifies that the “Dead End” sign may be used at the entrance of a single road that terminates or ends in a cul-de-sac, while the “No Outlet” sign may be used at the entrance to a road network from which there is no other exit. The sign choice comes down to whether it’s one road or more than one road with no other way out.

Road Rules is a regular column on road laws, safe driving habits and general police practices. Doug Dahl is the Target Zero Manager for the Whatcom County Traffic Safety Task Force. Target Zero is Washington’s vision to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by 2030. Ask a question.

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