Driving through Washington state gives you great views of mountains, farmland, and cities. But there are a few things you should know before you drive in this nature lover’s paradise.
Washington Traffic Laws and Rules
General & Safety
- All drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts.
- Children under the age of 13 must ride in the back seat. Children who are under 8 years old and/or have not reached 4’9” tall must be secured in a child seat or booster seat. Children under 40 pounds must also use a booster seat, and infants and toddlers must be secured in appropriate child seats.
- It is illegal to use wireless devices while driving, even with a hands-free device. This includes talking on cell phones and sending or receiving text messages.
- You must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an upcoming intersection. You are not required to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing when the stopped school bus is traveling in the opposite direction and the roadway: has three or more marked traffic lanes, is separated by a median, or is separated by a physical barrier.
- By law, your vehicle’s headlights must be turned on from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
- Pedestrians and bicyclists have the right-of-way at crosswalks and intersections, whether the crosswalk is marked or not. Drivers must yield where necessary to avoid striking pedestrians and bicyclists who are crossing the road.
- As in all other states, you must always yield to emergency vehicles when they have their lights flashing. Whatever direction the emergency vehicle is approaching from, you must do everything you can to clear the road and let them pass. Pull over if necessary, and never enter an intersection when an emergency vehicle is approaching.
- Drivers entering a roundabout must yield to drivers already in the circle.
- At an intersection where there is no stop sign, yield sign, or traffic signal, drivers must yield to vehicles in the intersection and to those coming from the right.
- At a four-way stop, the driver reaching the intersection first goes first (after coming to a complete stop). If more than one vehicle arrives at the same time, the vehicle on the right goes first.
Turning & Overtaking
- You can legally make U-turns in Washington state, but only when you can see at least 500 feet in each direction. U-turns should not be made on any curve or when approaching the crest of a hill when your vehicle cannot be seen by others.
- After stopping at a red light, you may make a legal right turn on red unless there is a sign prohibiting it.
- When entering a freeway, you may encounter ramp-metering signals. These look like traffic lights but are usually only composed of a red and a green light, and the green signal is very short. These are placed at on-ramps to allow one car at a time to enter the freeway and merge with traffic.
- High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes are reserved for vehicles with multiple occupants – generally 2 or more people. They’re marked by white diamonds and signs that indicate how many occupants your vehicle must have to qualify for the lane. An “HOV 3” sign requires vehicles to have three occupants to travel in the lane.
The speed limits in Washington are generally the same as in other US states. But you will find a wide variety of terrain, from flat to mountainous, that will affect how fast you can travel. In addition to the limits listed below, you are allowed to travel at a maximum of 20 miles per hour in school zones during certain hours, and speeds will also be affected by road construction.
|Within city limits:||20-50 mph|
|Undivided rural road:||55-65 mph|
|Divided rural road:||65-70 mph|
|Freeway within city limits:||55-70 mph|
|Freeway outside city limits:||60-70 mph|
Car Rental with Sixt
Now that you have some driving tips you are ready to get on the road in this northwestern state. If you operate a motor vehicle registered in Washington, you must have liability insurance and carry proof that you have such protection. You might be headed to Seattle in search of adventure and you will be glad to have a car rental to help you travel about the city. Head to the Pike Place Market to see the famous fish throwers or visit the Museum of Pop Culture to see music artifacts. To learn more about the history of aviation go to the Museum of Flight, or if you want to get outside, go for a hike and get a great view of the city from Kerry Park.