Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Washington?

  • Time to read: 5 min.

No, we did not find a statute making it illegal to change lanes in an intersection in Washington.

However, we would not execute a lane change move because it adds to the risk.

If you want to learn more about Washington’s traffic laws and the ones to make note of, keep reading.

Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Washington? (EXPLAINED)

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Where Are The Laws That I Can Look To In Order To Confirm Whether Lane Changes In An Intersection In This State Are Legal/Illegal?

The best place to look to confirm whether a maneuver is legal (or not) is the current and applicable laws of the state you are present in (not the DMV handbook or a news article).

Driving on the right, and yielding proper right-of-way is necessary for Washington to adhere to statute RCW 46.61.100:

(1) Upon all roadways of sufficient width a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows:

(a) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;

(b) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the highway; provided, any person so doing shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the highway within such distance as to constitute an immediate hazard;

Source: Washington RCW 46.61.100

Vehicles traveling in opposite directions, on the right, on a roadway is legislated under statute RCW 46.61.105:

Drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, and upon roadways having width for not more than one line of traffic in each direction each driver shall give to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible.

Source: Washington RCW 46.61.105

Entering an intersection at roughly the same time as another vehicle, the right-of-way is covered in statute RCW 46.61.180:

(1) When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

Special mention is made in this statute for pedestrians using the intersection in a public area. Extra fines are levied when so-called “vulnerable users” are impacted by a driver who violates this statute:

(3)(a) When the vehicle on the right approaching the intersection is a vulnerable user of a public way, a driver of a motor vehicle found to be in violation of this section must be assessed an additional fine equal to the base penalty assessed under RCW 46.63.110(3). This fine may not be waived, reduced, or suspended, unless the court finds the offender to be indigent, and is not subject to the additional fees and assessments that the base penalty for this violation is subject to under RCW 2.68.040, 3.62.090, and 46.63.110.

Source: Washington RCW 46.61.180

The appropriate vehicle position and turning methods are stipulated in statute RCW 46.61.290:

 (1) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

(2) Left turns. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of the vehicle. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection and so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered.

Source: Washington RCW 46.61.290

Neither changing lanes nor overtaking at an intersection was found to be prohibited, as long as it is conducted safely.

Why Do People Generally Think That It’s Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection?

It is pretty common to be taught that you should not change lanes in intersections while learning to drive.

Let’s face it, moving lanes in an intersection demonstrates poor planning on the part of the driver.

Usually, this should be performed before reaching the intersection to avoid needing to do it later.

If It Is Not Illegal In Washington To Change Lanes In An Intersection, Why Did I Get A Ticket?

Different types of driver behavior can cause difficulties for them.

In your case, it could be not seeing signs for an established no-passing zone and subsequently passing one or more vehicles in that location resulted in a ticket being issued.  

You may call that just bad luck, but a peace officer and a judge may both see it as not being observant enough. The worry is what else were you not being observant about?

Sudden acceleration could suggest to an inexperienced peace officer that you were racing or speeding. It may be innocent but might appear to be overly aggressive driving.

Also, there is an outside chance that you broke a newer traffic statute that came into force after you passed your driving test.

What Happens If A Car Accident Results?

An accident means you’re now having a bad day.

If there are property damages, or worse, people are hurt, then your day just got much worse.

When questions are asked about how the accident happened, you may need to fast-forward and think sensibly about defending yourself.

Lawsuits could follow if you’re not careful.

When other people are injured and the suggestion is that it’s your fault, then conferring with a Washington motor vehicle accident lawyer early on is worthwhile.

Wrap Up

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Is It Illegal To Change Lanes In An Intersection In Washington