Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court was asked to decide whether the phrase “when required” in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.305 compels drivers to use their signal every time they turn or change lanes on a public roadway.
The term ‘when required’ is defined by RCW 46.61.305(1) and (2):
(1) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
(2) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.
In State of Washington v. David Joseph Brown, the defendant had momentarily signaled a lane change, and then moved into a left turn lane. Next, the defendant came to a stop in the left turn lane, but did not signal intent to make a left turn from the left turn lane. At the time, the defendant was being followed by a Washington State Patrol vehicle who was observing the defendant’s driving. Soon after the turn, the defendant was pulled over for Failure to Signal a Turn, was subsequently found to have a blood alcohol reading of .26, and was then apprehended for DUI.
The Defense argued that between the initial signal use to indicate a left turn, and thereafter the vehicle being in the left turn lane prior to making the left turn, the defendant had more than fulfilled the “when required” language of the law for the use of a signal, which would then invalidate the traffic stop and consequently invalidate the subsequent discovery of, and arrest for, DUI.
However, the court ruled that Defendant did not continuously signal his intent to turn left and that a signal of intention to turn (or move right or left) was not made as required, as it had to be given continuously during but not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. Because the defendant did not signal continuously while his vehicle turned left through an intersection, he violated RCW 46.61.305.
A full copy of the court’s opinion can be found HERE.
In summary: When driving on a public road in Washington State, use your turn signal for every turn, initiating your signal at least 100 feet before your turn.
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