Lots of drivers in Snohomish County think crossing the solid painted lines marking freeway onramps and offramps is no big deal, Washington State Patrol troopers say.
Until they get a $411 ticket.
The triangular-shaped zones, called gore points, are designed to help traffic merge on and off a freeway safely, trooper Keith Leary said.
The painted gore points, which may get their name from a dressmaker’s term for a triangular cloth, are considered the same as a physical barrier under state traffic law. Crossing them not only is illegal and frustrating to other drivers, it’s also dangerous.
Crossing gore points is one of the leading causes for vehicle accidents in Washington state, Leary said.
Drivers cut across the lines to avoid traffic jams or when trying to make an exit they missed.
That’s what happened on March 1 when a woman driving a van on northbound I-5 in Marysville zipped across the gore point at the 88th Street NE. exit, striking a pickup. The crash bounced the pickup back onto the freeway, where it landed on its side, Leary said. Fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt.
“This could have been a very bad accident,” he said.
Calling drivers’ attention to gore points could help avert another accident, he said.
Tire marks still could be seen on the ground several days later. Seat belts and a properly secured child car seat saved the occupants, including a toddler, Leary said.
Long gore points, like the one at 88th Street NE., are designed for a reason, state traffic engineer Ted Trepanier said. Drivers shouldn’t have to make any sharp maneuvers.
Lots of things are considered when designing a gore point, he explained. Longer gore points are used where the angle between the ramp and the freeway is sharp, and in areas with heavy traffic.
Cars merging onto a freeway need time to get up to speed with the rest of the traffic, he said.
Drivers who cause an accident by crossing a gore point can be cited for negligent driving and handed a $411 fine for crossing a physical barrier, Leary said. If the drivers don’t cause a crash, they can be cited for improper lane travel and unsafe lane change, which carry smaller fines.
In Snohomish County last year troopers stopped more than 8,000 drivers for unsafe lane travel or change and for crossing a physical barrier, Leary said. The figure includes different types of violations, but many of them involved crossing a gore point.
The exit to 88th Street NE. in Marysville is one of several spots in Snohomish County notorious for these violations, Leary said. Troopers recently cited two dozen drivers there in just one day.
Other problem spots include the onramp onto northbound I-5 from 41st Street in Everett and the southbound interchange from the Bothell-Everett Highway to I-405, Leary said. Southbound I-5 at Marysville also is a trouble zone, with back-to-back gore points handling drivers merging onto the freeway and exiting to Highway 529.
“This is a really bad place to cut through,” Leary said. “I don’t know how many wrecks we investigated here.”
Police take gore point violations seriously. They use marked and unmarked patrol cars and airplanes to spot violators.
“We don’t want to have to write tickets for that, but if we see that type of driving, chances are the driver is going to get the infraction,” Leary said.
Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452, firstname.lastname@example.org