FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — Ryan Ryals of I-5 Driving School is a walking Wikipedia of traffic laws.
“I love it," he said. "I love the teaching part."
He’s here to set us straight on the rules of the road.
"We all think we know more about the law than we do,” Ryan said.
Take, for instance, yielding to emergency vehicles, even if they’re several lanes over.
“If the road is not divided by some sort of physical barrier, like raised concrete or median, grass strip, something like that, if just paint lines on the road, you’re required to pull over and stop, regardless of what direction they’re coming from,” Ryals explained.
Unmarked residential intersections can be a real head-scratcher.
“We tend to struggle with right-of-way a lot,” he said.
Unless otherwise marked, assume all roads are equal.
“Person who gets there first gets to go first,” Ryals said, "What we notice a lot is folks will bring in the rules from parking lots out in the streets. They think I’m on the main road so I have the right-of-way, but that’s not true.”
The rules are similar at all-way stops. The person to your right gets to break a tie and go first. But “Northwest nice” drivers are famous for holding things up.
“Well, the politeness can be a barrier,” Ryals said. “When you get to an intersection and both people are waving at each other, I would say offer it once. And if they throw it back to you, then you go ahead and go.”
Remember, if it’s an intersection, it’s a pedestrian crossing. Period.
“So, even though there’s no paint lines to say, okay, this is where we cross, every intersection is a crosswalk,” Ryals said.
Stopping for a loading or unloading school bus is strictly required, of course. But there is an exception.
“If it’s a three-lane road and the bus is on the other side — so bus, center turn lane, your lane — don’t stop," Ryals said. "Keep going. Bus drivers are not allowed to let students cross three lanes of traffic or one with a median. They do, they get fired.”
If a cyclist is poking along in front of me, can I get by?
“You can," Ryals said. "As long as you leave three feet of space when passing them. Best to stay in your lane, too.”
Did you know there are actually two speed limits? The legal speed, and what Ryals calls the “cultural speed.”
“60 miles an hour is the maximum limit on freeways, but you’ll not see people going 60 or under. So you’ll actually go about 62, 63 miles per hour," he said. "It’s probably the safest speed.”
Can you really get fined for mopey motoring? You bet.
“If you’re going too slow in the left lane, yes you can get a ticket for going too slow,” Ryals said. “What we tell people when they’re driving in the left lane on the freeway is that the minimum unspoken speed is 65."
And don’t linger left. Get back over after passing.
There’s one last item that seems to stump the majority of drivers.
“The flashing yellow arrow when you go to turn left,” Ryals said.
Just carefully make your turn, as if you’re at a regular old green light.
Ryals said if you follow three simple rules, you’ll be in for a smooth ride.
“Number one: Don’t hit stuff. Number two: Don’t let stuff hit you," he said. "And finally, don’t be a turd. Be nice.”
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