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Is it legal to overtake and pass another car traveling on a residential street in Tacoma?

You are legally allowed to pass other cars on the residential streets of Tacoma, but authorities warn you to use extreme caution if doing so.
You are legally allowed to pass other cars on the residential streets of Tacoma, but authorities warn you to use extreme caution if doing so. News Tribune file photo

Q: Let’s say I’m crawling behind a car going 10 mph in a 25 mph zone on a residential street. Am I allowed to pass? — one of my editors

A: While it might seem obvious to some because this is something that many drivers do without thinking twice, I really wasn’t sure what the legal answer was.

So I asked Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool.

“Is that a serious question?” she asked. She wasn’t trying to be snarky.

So, yes, you can.

According to Cool, if it’s safe to do so, drivers can signal and pass other cars driving on residential streets. Signal, people.

Cool pointed out that a lot of the residential streets in Tacoma probably aren’t wide enough to do this safely. And if you are in the other lane passing someone and hit them, or hit a parked car while passing someone, or get hit head-on by a car traveling in the opposite direction, you’re at fault.

“With most residential areas there is probably not even a hash-mark lane divider, and so it appears like there is one lane because of the parking on both sides of the street,” Cool said.

“Obviously there is room for two cars to go by, but again, you always have to use extreme caution because if the guy in front of you is not paying attention and they drift and there is no lane line, who’s at fault? If you hit a parked car, or they hit you, you’re at fault because you’re passing.”

To be honest, I’ve never found occasion to pass around another driver on a residential street in Tacoma, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone doing it.

A lot of us are probably focused on driving slowly in order to maneuver around potholes.

Candice Ruud: 253-597-8441, @candiceruud

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