State Patrol offers insight on merging traffic

David W. Jessup of Snohomish writes: Based upon the statements of a state Department of Transportation spokesman in a recent edition of Street Smarts, our state has no regulation designating right-of-way upon merging onto a freeway when no yield or stop sign is present.

The only comment in the state driver’s manual that deals with entering a roadway lacking any traffic control device doesn’t seem to cover merging from a ramp: “Drivers entering a road from a driveway, alley, parking lot, or roadside must yield to vehicles already on the main road.”

I have already been involved in a road rage incident that began with a misunderstanding while merging, and witnessed others.

Tom Pearce, a spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, responds:

Mr. Jessup’s comments made us dig deeper into this issue, including looking into the Washington Driver Guide and talking to the State Patrol, which is responsible for enforcement along the state’s highways.

The Driver Guide says: “Entering into traffic — When you merge with traffic, signal and enter at the same speed that traffic is moving. High-speed roadways generally have ramps to give you time to build up your speed for merging into traffic. Do not drive to the end of the ramp and stop or you will not have enough room to get up to the speed of traffic. Also, drivers behind you will not expect you to stop and you may be hit from the rear. If you have to wait for space to enter a roadway, slow down on the ramp so you have some room to speed up before you have to merge.”

 The State Patrol offers a clearer version of who has the right-of-way when vehicles merge onto a highway. It investigates collisions, so troopers need legal grounds to be able to assign fault and if necessary issue citations.

To do this, the State Patrol relies on two laws. One (RCW 46.61.190) addresses vehicles entering a stop or yield intersection. The second (RCW 46.61.195) covers the designation of highways as arterials and when a stop is necessary before entering an arterial.

Basically, because freeways have arterial status, vehicles already on the highway have the right-of-way over vehicles entering from the right, or coming from a ramp. If a State Patrol trooper responds to a collision between a car on the ramp and a car already on the highway, the car coming from the ramp would be cited for failure to yield under one of these laws.

Mary Chesnut of Everett writes: I have a question about streetlights. I walk from home to the Mariner park-and-ride lot at 13102 Fourth Ave. W. and back in the mornings and evenings. I walk on the north side of 128th Street SW because there are street lights and I feel safer under the lights.

However, as I walk from E. Gibson Road to Eighth Avenue W., the streetlights go out. These include the light above a bus stop where people are waiting for a bus around Ninth Avenue.

Is there something wrong with the lights or are they programmed that way? If so, why would street lights be programmed to turn off?

Dave Lindemuth of the street lighting department of the Snohomish County Public Utility District responds: I’ve asked to have these lights replaced. We are replacing all 36,000-plus of our HPS (high-pressure sodium) fixtures with LEDs (light-emitting diodes) over the next few years, starting in the outermost parts of our service area.

We have already completed the replacements on Camano Island and are focusing on the northern portion of Snohomish County. Since we are purchasing LED exclusively, we are also replacing any failed HPS fixture regardless of its location. We expect the entire change-out project to take about five years.

The LED technology offers many advantages. In addition to better light quality, LED fixtures use less power, last much longer and require less maintenance than HPS installations. They also allow tighter control over the light pattern and produce more diffused, even light levels along the roadways. The unit cost of the LED fixtures has dropped to a point where the investment makes economic sense.

E-mail us at streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your city of residence.

Look for updates on our Street Smarts blog at www.heraldnet.com/streetsmarts.

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