Traffic Q&A: Follow the rules of the road even if you’re on private property

Question: Shopping-area parking lots attempt to regulate vehicular and pedestrian movement by painting on the blacktop: crosswalks, arrows to indicate the direction traffic should move, stop signs at the end of these lanes and, of course, the parking stalls themselves.

At times drivers do not follow these markers.

And, for example, if a driver goes on a directional lane in the wrong direction and hits a pedestrian or another vehicle, what is the legal status of that vehicle? On private property? Do private regulatory signs have the force of law? Can the driver be ticketed?

I haven’t been in this situation. Just wondering. — Al Vandenberg, University Place

Answer: We put the question to Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool, who said traffic regulations on private property are not enforced by law enforcement officers.

“The Tacoma Mall, for example, is private property and those stop signs and lane designators are placed by the property owner,” Cool said. “They are basically suggestions to assist the traffic flow and prevent foreseeable accidents.”

If an accident does occur on private property and there are injuries, Cool said, police would have authority to investigate the accident.

In that case, regular rules of the road — such as failure to yield to the vehicle on the right, exceeding a safe speed limit or failure to stop at an uncontrolled intersection — would be used to determine the driver at fault.

“There is no special arrangement with the city,” Cool said. “It would be the same if someone left the roadway and drove across your lawn and struck your house. The driver could be cited or arrested depending on the circumstances of the incident.”