In Washington D.C., drivers frequently ignore essential rules of the road like passing on the left and not following too closely.
Most Washington D.C. drivers know the rules of the road, but that doesn’t mean they always obey them. Here are seven traffic laws that drivers commonly ignore in the District of Columbia. Read on so you can avoid getting a ticket – or worse, causing an accident.
Resources to learn more:
- District of Columbia Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Manual
- Code of the District of Columbia Title 50: Motor and Non-Motor Vehicles and Traffic
1. Washington D.C. Slower Traffic Keep Right Law: The “Move Over” Rule
Slower drivers must keep to the right in Washington D.C. If you are traveling slower than the normal speed of traffic, you must drive in the right lane or as far right as possible.
You may leave the right lane to pass another car or prepare for a left turn.
Any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic shall be driven in the right-hand plane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle or when preparing for a left turn.
2. Washington D.C. Flow of Traffic Law: The “Minimum Speed” Rule
In the District of Columbia, it is illegal to drive slowly enough to interrupt the normal traffic flow. However, you can reduce your speed when it is necessary to operate your vehicle safely or obey the law. So, you aren’t breaking this rule if you are driving the speed limit when everyone else on the road is speeding.
No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or to be in compliance with the law.
3. Washington D.C. Driving in Left Lane Law: The “Passing on the Left” Rule
Washington D.C. traffic laws require you to pass on the left and to keep a safe distance from the other car. You cannot return to the right lane until you have safely cleared the other vehicle.
When being passed, you must yield the right-of-way to the passing driver if they sound their horn. The law also says you cannot drive faster until the vehicle finishes passing you.
The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.
4. Washington D.C. Rear-End Collision Law: The “Following Too Closely” Rule
It is illegal to follow a vehicle too closely in Washington D.C. You must keep a “reasonable and prudent” distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you. How much space you must leave depends on the speed you are traveling, as well as road and traffic conditions.
The driver of a vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of the vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the roadway.
5. Washington D.C. Mobile Phone Driving Law: The “Hands-Free Driving” Rule
The District of Columbia requires drivers to use hands-free accessories when using a mobile phone. It’s against the law to use a cell phone or another hand-held electronic device while operating a moving vehicle.
There is an exception for emergencies.
No person shall use a mobile telephone or other electronic device while operating a moving motor vehicle in the District of Columbia unless the telephone or device is equipped with a hands-free accessory.
This shall not apply to emergency use of a mobile telephone, including calls to 911 or 311, a hospital, an ambulance service provider, a fire department, a law enforcement agency, or a first-aid squad.
6. Washington D.C. Four-Way Intersection Law: The “4-Way Stop” Rule
Under D.C. law, if two vehicles arrive at a four-way stop at the same time, the driver on the right gets to go first. The driver on the left must yield the right-of-way.
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.
7. Washington D.C. Left Turn Intersection Law: The “Right of Way” Rule
When making a left turn in Washington D.C., you must yield the right-of-way to approaching vehicles that could hit you if you turned. Wait until all oncoming traffic has passed before turning.
The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.
While it may sometimes be tempting to ignore traffic laws, doing so can lead to fines or points on your license. Remember, it’s always better to play by the rules and avoid getting pulled over. By educating yourself on the traffic laws in Washington DC, you can also help reduce the number of accidents on the roadways.
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