Pull over on right if you’re stopped

Speeders beware.

If you get tagged on the freeway, don’t pull over on the left side — even if you’re driving in the carpool lane.

It’s illegal.

You’re not likely to get a ticket for pulling off to the left, but state law says you’re supposed to safely move to the right of the freeway.

Moving to the right is safer for both the driver and the trooper.

Trooper Lance Ramsay explains why. On the right side of the road:

  • Troopers can approach the driver on the passenger side window, which is safer.

  • Troopers can park their patrol cars at an angle, helping to protect both the stopped car and the trooper from being rear-ended or sideswiped.

  • There’s usually more room on the right.

  • Drivers are used to seeing someone parked off to the right of the freeway. Traffic stops in the median of the freeway cause drivers in both directions to gawk, a bad habit that often leads to accidents.

  • Stopping on the left exposes you and the trooper to people speeding, coming from both directions.

  • If a trooper is actually trying to get around you (thank your lucky stars, if that’s the case), moving to the right could help you avoid an accident with the trooper, who might be about to move to the left to get around you.

    Ramsay said the most important thing for drivers to do is to find a safe place to pull off the road.

    Less experienced drivers often will panic, slamming on the brakes as soon as they see the flashing lights come up behind them. In traffic, doing so can cause a chain reaction of fender benders, Ramsay said.

    Sometimes panicked drivers don’t move all the way off the road, and, with part of their vehicle sticking out into a driving lane, immediately put themselves, the trooper and other drivers at risk.

    Worse, some very panicked drivers just stop right on the freeway, making no attempt to get off the road as cars buzz up behind them at 60 mph.

    "Sometimes it’s safer to not even continue with that person," Ramsay said.

    The best way to pull over after being stopped is to take your time and clearly indicate what you plan to do with your blinkers.

    If there’s a guardrail on the right, troopers will have no problem if you wait until you see a safe spot to pullover, Ramsay said, adding that it’s also OK to get off the freeway.

    "We know when someone’s running and when they’re not," Ramsay said.

    Of course, the best plan is to not get pulled over at all.

    Q: When trying to merge onto I-5 southbound while going south on Broadway towards Everett Mall Way, you have to take a left and cross traffic.

    The northbound cars that are merging onto I-5 are supposed to yield, but there are no signs that indicate that those of us on southbound Everett Mall Way have the right-of-way. I have sat a long time behind other drivers who do not know this.

    Don Bennum,


    A: A yield sign would only make the intersection more dangerous, especially because northbound traffic often makes last-minute merges to the left to avoid being dumped on I-5. Instead, the plan is to install a traffic light in 2005.

    Dongho Chang, state Department of Transportation engineer.

    Reporter Lukas Velush:

    425-339-3449 or


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