Q: Is it legal to exit the highway onto the collector-distributor lane and not go onto the cross street but continue straight ahead, rejoining the highway in an effort to bypass congested traffic?
I see this almost every morning at Interstate 5 and South 56th Street, and these drivers go at high speeds, making the exit and entry of the highway more dangerous that it needs to be.
Don R., Tacoma
A: We hate answering questions with the wishy-washy “depends,” but in this case it does, at least according to Washington State Patrol trooper Rick Johnson.
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If a collector-distributor lane is clearly marked with a sign stating “No through traffic” or “No re-entry to freeway” or such, then it would be illegal to jump off the mainline, zoom across the collector-distributor and then rejoin the freeway ahead.
If it’s not marked, using the collector-distributor lane for a shortcut does not appear to be illegal, Johnson said.
“I understand people’s frustration,” he said. “But there’s no specific RCW or WAC that says you can’t do that. It’s got to be posted.”
For newcomers to the traffic column, RCW stands for Revised Code of Washington and WAC stands for Washington Administrative Code, which are both long ways to say “state law.”
Johnson said trying to enforce such a law would be tough in any case. A trooper would have to witness the episode, and a driver could always contend he or she meant to get off on the cross street but either changed their mind or got confused.
“That would be an enforcement nightmare,” he said.
That left us with Don’s specific question about the 56th Street collector-distributor. Johnson, who works mostly in King County, couldn’t recall whether it is signed to restrict such actions.
So it was up to us to find out.
Braving the afternoon commute on Thursday (anything for you, dear readers), we navigated to I-5 and cruised the collector-distributor for the South 56th street exits in the northbound and southbound directions.
We spied no restrictive signs.
We feel compelled to point out that laws governing speeds, yielding and reckless driving still apply on collector-distributor lanes, and the Golden Rule applies at all times no matter where you are.
Be nice out there.