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Should Washington require a test for out-of-state drivers?

A KIRO Radio listener brought up a great point after my story last week about lane-sweeping. It sent me diving into driver’s manuals from around the West Coast.

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Just to remind you what lane-sweeping is — it’s when you turn a corner and into a lane that is not the closest to you. It’s against the law in Washington. For example, a driver cannot take a left turn onto a two lane road and turn into the far lane. You must turn into the lane closest to you. If you go into that second one, it’s considered lane sweeping.

Listener David Anderson reached out to me with a reason why we might see this so often in Washington.

“I admit that I have been lane sweeping on left turns, but not right turns,” he wrote. “That is because in California, where I learned to drive, that is legal. Since many of the drivers here learned to drive in California, I am not surprised that they lane sweep just as I have.”

I read through the California Driver’s Manual; David is right on.

In California, you are allowed to turn into any lane that is safely open when making a left turn. So that might explain why we see it so much here, but it can’t just be Californians. We have transplants from everywhere. I read the Oregon Driver’s Manual. I read the Idaho Driver’s Manual. I even read the manual from British Columbia, which I must say is very polite and does a really good job explaining things. Of those five states or provinces, including Washington, only California allows lane sweeping while making a left. The others all require a turn into the nearest lane.

It got me thinking about other rules of the road that might be different from state-to-state.

Beyond lane sweeping

I did a quick check with those other areas on one of our worst behaviors in Washington: the left lane camping. All five have varying laws on keeping right except to pass, so I’m not sure why we see it so often.

The BC manual had the best explanation: “just because you are driving at the speed limit does not mean you should continually drive in the left lane. This may cause other drivers to try to pass on the right, which may not be as safe as passing on the left.”

All of this leads me back to a topic that raises the blood pressure just a bit. Should we make transplants take a written driving test before giving them a Washington license?

We could load the transplant test with questions about rules of the road here that are different from other states. I know it would make the Department of Licensing even more packed than it currently is and cost a lot of money. I’m not sure if it’s necessary or would have any impact. Perhaps the state could create a small pamphlet on the common driving rules that are different here that transplants would receive when they get their new licenses.

What do you think?

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