Perspective Newsletter

Road Rules 101: What that ‘Road Closed’ sign really means

Road Rules 101The ol' Double Doppler's working overtime – a Pineapple Express has pushed its way in off the Pacific – and those buckets of rain have left your usual commute route more than a little soggy. You come upon a "Road Closed" sign. Now what?

The laws in Washington and Oregon are clear: Stop and turn around. Driving past the barricade is illegal – no different than ignoring a stop sign. Fines can be steep.

Worse yet, you could put yourself and others in real peril. Just six inches of moving water can knock you off your feet and 12 inches can float a car. Even in shallow water, a wave or big splash from a passing car can drown your engine, potentially stranding you in the path of rising water. And there's no telling the condition of a flooded road. It may look solid, only to be dangerously undermined by water rushing around a failed culvert and ready to give way.

So with the law so clear, why all the "Road Closed" confusion? Often, drivers mistakenly believe the signs are advisory, since conditions caused by floodwaters can change rapidly. Many also feel it depends on the vehicle they're driving, knowing a big SUV with lots of clearance can handle more water than a family sedan. Still others contend that it's OK to ignore the barrier as long as they stop before they reach the water over the roadway.

Nope. Nope. And nope.

The same rules apply if the problem is ice, snow, a washout, or road construction. Let your GPS guide you to a safe alternate route. "Closed" really does mean closed!

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