Q: What’s the law regarding mud flaps on pickups and SUVs? Aren’t they required on those vehicles? – Robert B., Puyallup
A: In fact, Robert, some sort of fender or so-called “splash apron” is required on all but a few vehicles in the Evergreen State.
Here’s the pertinent verbiage from RCW 46.37.500:
“… no person may operate any motor vehicle, trailer, cargo extension or semitrailer that is not equipped with fenders, cover, flaps or splash aprons adequate for minimizing the spray or splash of water or mud from the roadway to the rear of the vehicle.”
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“All such devices shall be as wide as the tires behind which they are mounted and extend downward at least to the center of the axle.”
There is an exception for vehicles that are “not less than 40 years old or a street rod vehicle” that is operated as a collector’s item and driven only during fair weather and on well-maintained, paved roads.
Robert seems to think a lack of mud flaps on pickups and SUVs is epidemic in Washington.
“There’s thousands of them running around out there,” he told us here at Traffic Q&A headquarters. “Personally, I think vehicles without them should be impounded on the spot, so they’re not out there throwing rocks all over.”
Doubtless there are some scofflaws out there violating the law. Many “lifted” trucks probably don’t meet the “center of the axle” provision of RCW 46.37.500. And mud flaps are sometimes discussed on online forums favored by four-wheel-drive aficionados.
But Robert’s contention of thousands of rock-throwing vehicles prowling the streets seemed a little, shall we say, exaggerated.
So we asked Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol for the facts, just the facts.
Prouty consulted the State Patrol’s vast archive but said, unfortunately for us, the agency does not track mup-flap citations specifically. They are lumped in under the more general “defective equipment” category, of which troopers handed out 43,576 in 2015.
The good sergeant also pointed out that most car manufacturers these days build their vehicles to meet the state’s specifications.
“I don’t think it’s that big of a problem in our state,” Prouty said. “But we do get called to incidents where a rock has cracked someone’s windshield.”
Which reminds us of the old newsroom maxim: The injuries are only minor if they’re not yours.