Q: This is not so much a question as it is asking for advice. If there is a law that applies, so much the better. What is an appropriate action for me to take when my road mate next to my rear bumper insists on driving within 3 feet of it? — G.H., Lakewood
A: Frustrating to have some driver so close to your rear bumper that you can see that bit of lettuce in his or her teeth, isn’t it?
They ought to pass a law!
What’s that? They have?
Oh, yes, here it is, RCW 46.61.145, titled, “Following too closely.”
Subsection (1) states:
“The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”
Now reasonable minds might differ as to what is “reasonable and prudent,” but we suspect 3 feet back is neither.
Back in the day when we were learning to operate a motor vehicle (and no, it was not a Model T), the driver’s ed teacher espoused the three-second rule.
That is, a trailing driver should be able to count out three seconds before passing a stationary object alongside the road previously passed by the car ahead.
It appears inflation has hit driving rules as well as the price of a cup of coffee in the ensuing, uh, decades.
The Washington Driver Guide, in a section titled, “Space Ahead,” states that, “If you are driving at 30 mph or less, a following time of two to three seconds may be enough to stop safely. However, at higher speeds, the best rule is the four-second rule.”
But we digress.
G.H.’s question was what to do if you are the victim of someone following too closely, or “tailgating,” as it’s known in the vernacular of traffic columnists.
Here’s what Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol had to say:
“I would advise them to maintain the speed limit and, when safe, signal and change lanes to the right. If there is not another lane, I would advise them to maintain the speed limit and ensure they utilize their signals if they are going to turn. If they are not comfortable with that, they can signal and pull to the shoulder to allow the tailgater to pass.”
Wholly unsatisfying, we know, but likely the safest bet.
We asked Sgt. Prouty about the wisdom of aggrieved drivers giving the tailgater the old one-finger salute as he or she speeds past.
“No, sir,” he said. “Hopefully they will wave with all of their fingers.”
Q: What commercial vehicles can use HOV lanes? — Brennor B., Gig Harbor
A: Well, Brennor, Washington law does not restrict by type which vehicles are allowed to use carpool lanes in Washington.
The real consideration is weight.
WAC 468-510-010 spells out what vehicles are allowed, which is pretty much all of them.
They are rubber-tired municipal transit vehicles whose main purpose is carrying passengers, private buses with a carrying capacity of 16 or more, motorcycles, official marked law enforcement and fire department vehicles operated by on-duty personnel and all other vehicles, including RVs, with the number of occupants specified on signs.
There is that exception, according to the WAC: “ … trucks in excess of 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight are prohibited from use of HOV lanes regardless of the number of occupants.”
Of course, there’s an exception to the exception, this being government and all.
The law also states that “tow trucks that would be otherwise prohibited because of weight or number of occupants may use HOV lanes when en route to an emergency on a specific highway or roadside.”
Frankly, we’re cool with that because they’re generally dragging the dented heaps off the road so we can drive on.