Q: I have always thought that shoulder driving is illegal unless posted otherwise. What is the legal stance on this, and how do our local police agencies view it?
Leann O., Gig Harbor
A: Leann is right on.
“It’s not authorized unless otherwise posted,” Washington State Police trooper Guy Gill told us of the practice of driving on the shoulder, however tempting it might be when traffic is snarled.
Safety is the main reason, Gill said.
Road debris, from tires to mufflers to lost furniture, often finds its way onto the shoulder, he said, as do disabled cars.
People whose cars break down on the highway also use the shoulder to walk to the next exit or along an exit ramp in search of help, Gill said.
All that makes driving on the shoulder dangerous.
It is allowed in some spots to relieve traffic congestion (the exit from westbound state Route 16 onto state Route 302 toward Purdy comes to mind), but not in many, Gill said.
Still, people drive on the shoulder all over the region, the trooper said.
“We see it often if we have a blockage on the main line, not just on the ramps,” he said. “I understand people’s frustration. There’s traffic congestion in Pierce County. We all face it every single day, even troopers. But unless otherwise posted, shoulder driving is illegal.”
The fine for doing it in Pierce County is $136.
Leann was interested because she said she sees people frequently driving on the shoulder at the off-ramp from eastbound state Route 16 onto Olympic Drive in Gig Harbor.
“I have never seen anyone ticketed, but I have had numerous drivers honk at me when I don’t pull over and drive on the shoulder,” she said.
That might not be illegal, but it’s certainly bad manners.