Question: This weekend I learned of an apparent new traffic law pertaining to vehicle equipment.
Apparently, after towing a vehicle, trailer, boat or motor home, you have to take the “ball slug” off your vehicle until you are ready to tow something again.
From what I heard, a legislator was walking between some vehicles and bruised a leg.
Is there is any truth to this? If so, could you provide the WAC code or RCW relating to this matter? — Gary Sundt, Olympia
Answer: As far as I can tell, there’s no law in Washington or any other state that specifically requires removing a ball trailer hitch when not in use.
A couple of Illinois legislators tried in 2009 and 2011 to require unused ball hitches that extend more than 4 inches past the rear bumper to be removed or covered with a red cover, but the effort didn’t get enough support to pass.
Washington does have laws that could indirectly make removing the ball necessary. If the ball is located directly in front of the license plate, it could obscure part of the plate, which is a civil infraction.
RCW 46.16A. 200(5) requires that vehicle license plates be kept clean, plainly visible and unobstructed at all times. RCW46.16A (7) makes it unlawful to use holders, frames or other materials that change, alter or make a license plate or plates illegible.
State courts have found that those “other materials” include trailer ball hitches.