Washington State Traffic Laws (8 Laws Every Driver Should Know)

Washington State Traffic Laws (8 Laws Every Driver Should Know)

Do you know what to do when a school bus stops?

Where can you park your vehicle?

How fast can you go when driving in Washington State?

There are HUNDREDS of Washington State traffic laws out there. 

And as a driver, it’s your responsibility to know and obey these laws. 

For today, we’ll be looking at the 8 laws every driver should know about but probably doesn’t know about. This includes:

  • Loading
  • Hitching
  • Right of way
  • School bus
  • Parking
  • Speed limits
  • Headlight
  • Collision

We’ll also look a bit into the automated traffic safety cameras

So shall we?

Washington State Loading Law

Washington State Traffic Laws

Maria’s Law took effect in 2005.

This law (and name) came about after an unsecured load fell from a trailer in front of a young woman. She sustained critical injuries from that incident. 

Now, when operating a vehicle, you can only consider your load secured if the following are true:

  • You used rope netting or straps to tie it down (you must also ensure to secure animals)
  • You tied large objects directly to your trailer or vehicle
  • You covered your entire load with netting or a sturdy tarp
  • You confirmed that you don’t have too much load

If an unsecured load falls off and damages someone else’s property, law enforcement can charge you with a misdemeanor. 

If it results in injury (or worse), it becomes a gross misdemeanor. You may also spend up to one year in jail and pay a $5,000 fine.

Washington State Hitching Law

Hitchhiking isn’t allowed in Washington State. 

You (or any person, really) cannot stand on the side of the road and ask for a ride. It’s especially true if the vehicle cannot safely leave the main traffic lanes.

If you see someone doing that, you can’t pull over and give them a ride. 

The only exception is if there are traffic signs saying otherwise.

Picking up a hitchhiker may cost you a $124 fine per violation. The penalty is the same whether you give one person or several a ride.

Washington State Right of Way

Sharing the road with other motorists and pedestrians is normal. 

To ensure safety for everyone, you must always obey right-of-way regulations. 

The following scenarios require you to yield the right of way at intersections:

  • There are pedestrians or bicyclists on the crosswalk (marked or not) unless they are more than a lane beyond your side of the road.
  • You cross a sidewalk to enter or exit an alley, driveway, or parking lot.
  • When a pedestrian with a guide dog (or another service animal) or using a white cane is crossing. This usually means the person is visually impaired. 
  • You are turning left, and there are oncoming vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians.
  • You are entering a roundabout that already has vehicles and bicyclists.
  • Yield to vehicles on the right if there is no stop sign, yield sign, or traffic signal at an intersection. The same applies when at a four-way stop.
  • There are already motorists on the road you are entering from a parking lot, driveway, roadside, or alley.
  • You are passing a vehicle that decides to stop, slow down, or turn.
  • You are at a railroad crossing.
  • You are sharing the road with emergency vehicles with their sirens, air horns, and flashing lights activated.

If you caused an accident because you failed to yield, that may result in a fine. It also goes into your record and may contribute to the reasons for a license suspension.

Washington State School Bus Law

If you see a school bus stop to load or unload children, you are required to stop as well.

And yes, this applies no matter what direction you’re going. 

However, some situations exempt you from this law if you’re going in the opposite direction:

  • There are at least three marked traffic lanes 


  • A median or a physical barrier separates traffic going in opposite directions

Don’t forget to keep the following in mind:

  • You cannot pass a school bus from the right.
  • You can only proceed when the children that got off the school bus have left the roadway.
  • You must yield the right of way to a school bus rejoining traffic.

A school bus violation results in a $500 fine, which you cannot ask the court to reduce, suspend, or waive.

Washington State Parking Laws

If you aren’t careful, you can easily get a parking ticket. 

This is why it’s important to know where NOT to park… 

  • Bicycle lanes, railroad tracks, intersections, crosswalks, and sidewalks.
  • Construction areas (if it causes your vehicle to block traffic)/
  • Within the following distances and locations:
    • 20 feet from pedestrian safety zones and fire station driveways
    • 75 feet from fire station driveways (from across the street)
    • 50 feet from railroad crossings
    • 30 feet from traffic signals, stop signs, or yield signs 
    • 15 feet from a fire hydrant
    • 5 feet from driveways, private roads, alleys, or removed or lowered curbs for sidewalk access
    • 12 inches from curbs
  • Bridges, overpasses, tunnels, or underpasses.
  • The wrong side of the street.
  • Spaces marked for persons with disabilities (unless with appropriate plates or placards) or charging stations for e-vehicles (unless charging).
  • The road beside parked vehicles (double parking).
  • The shoulder of the freeway (except in emergencies).
  • Areas with no parking signs.

Parking in a spot for persons with disabilities without the proper plates or placards (or on the access space beside it) leads to a $250 fine. 

In the same way, parking in spots designated as charging stations for electric vehicles leads to a $124 fine.

Washington State Speed Limits

Speeding is more likely to cause an accident. 

Moreover, speeding can lead to severe injuries (or worse) in a crash. 

That’s why Washington limits the allowable speed to the following:

  • 60 mph for state highways (parts of interstate highways may have higher limits)
  • 50 mph for county roads
  • 25 mph for city and town streets
  • 20 mph for school zones

Of course, these are only the general limits. You must always watch out for posted speed limits in the area and follow that. 

If driving a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) or Medium Electric Vehicle (MEV), you can only drive on roads with speed limits of 35 mph (45 mph in San Juan County) unless otherwise noted.

As for the penalties, you will have to pay a fine and get demerit points. The fine and points will depend on how much you went over the speed limit. 

Check the table below for this.

Over the speed limit by:Fine:Demerit Point:
Not more than 9 mph$100N/A
More than 9 mph$2002
More than 19 mph$4003
More than 29 mph$8006
More than 40+ mph$1,2007

Washington State Headlight Law

Your headlights are a great help when driving in the dark.

In Washington, it’s a law to turn your headlights on half an hour after sunset or half an hour before sunrise.

You must also use your headlights during the daytime if conditions lead to low visibility (like rain or fog).

Washington State Collision Laws

Getting into an accident is stressful. 

However, it’s best to keep your composure and respond appropriately at the scene, especially if someone is injured.

It’s best to have a law enforcement officer present if the crash results in property damage worth over $1,000, injury, or death. That way, you can provide them with the necessary information, and they can file a report.

Otherwise, you must complete a Collision Report form within four days (you can do this online or get a hard copy at a local police station).

As for the penalties, that will depend on the damage, the court, and a lot of other things. 

Automated Traffic Safety Cameras

How does Washington State enforce all these traffic laws?

I mean, law officers aren’t always present to spot drivers committing traffic violations.

The solution — automated traffic safety cameras.

Of course, these cameras can’t spot EVERY single traffic law. But it can take pictures of vehicles that: 

  • Don’t stop at a red light
  • Disobey an activated railroad grade crossing signal
  • Exceeds the allowable speed limit in a school zone

Once the WA DOL determines the vehicle owner, they’ll send an infraction notice within 14 days.

The violation doesn’t go on your driving record — it only gets processed as a parking violation. The highest possible fine for that will be $250.

The Wrap Up

So those were the 8 Washington State traffic laws every driver needs to know about but doesn’t really know about.

Now it’s time to go and obey them all. 

Remember, these laws are there for a reason — to ensure the safety of everyone. 

Never ignore them…

You just might cause an accident…

Or if not, you may have to face an inconvenient penalty. 

If you want to learn more, you can check out our articles on:

Drive safely!

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