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On the Road
Uncovered loads | Errant golf balls
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
Q: It seems like every time we're on the road we're behind a dump truck that is uncovered, and even though the load on the sides is low, it's mounded up high on top, and wind whips the load around on the car behind it. What are the rules about covering loads that are mounded up in the middle? Also what if the truck is a solid-waste garbage truck? I see these trucks going down the road all the time with trash flying out from the top.
A: Whether a truck carrying a load on a public highway must cover up lies in the magical measurement of six inches. Under state law, vehicles are required to cover up only if they have fewer than six inches of "freeboard" around their load. "Freeboard" refers to the area around the mounded load on the sides and at the top. So if a truck's load is at least six inches below the top of the truck, it isn't required to cover up, State Patrol Trooper Cliff Pratt said.
But even if a load meets the "freeboard" requirement, it still must be securely fastened to prevent it from being a hazard to others, Pratt added. And if it is covered, the covering also must be securely fastened to prevent anything from flying off. The only exception to this rule is if sand is dropped from a vehicle for the purpose of creating traction.
So regardless of whether a truck is covered, if any load drops, sifts, leaks or escapes, causing potential hazards to others on the road, the motorist can be found guilty of criminal negligence.
It is a gross misdemeanor if not securing the load causes substantial bodily harm to a person and a misdemeanor if it damages property. Motorists also can be cited for an infraction if their load isn't secured, even if no harm is done to a person or property.
Garbage trucks are subject to the same law and are required to ensure that the contents they are hauling remains in their vehicles.
Q: My commute takes me past a golf course east of Renton, and twice now I've seen golf balls fall between vehicles, only to bounce off the road. Who is responsible for damage that would be caused by these balls should they hit a car? Is it the person who hit the ball, or the course for not having proper barriers in place to stop the errant balls from leaving the property? It certainly isn't my fault for being on the road!
Got an Eastside traffic question? Send it to us by e-mail, email@example.com; by fax, 425-453-0449; by mail, The Seattle Times Eastside News Bureau, 1200 112th Ave. N.E., Suite C-145, Bellevue, WA 98004.
A: Ultimately, the property owner of the golf course is liable for any errant and unintentional damage created by patrons while playing on the golf course, Pratt said. Now you know at whom to be teed off.
Holiday: Since the Fourth of July falls on a Tuesday this year, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) expects many motorists to take Monday off, stretching the holiday to a four-day weekend. That means traffic. The DOT encourages drivers to travel at off-peak times to avoid congestion and plan by checking traffic conditions at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic or calling 511. The DOT's Incident Response Teams will be on call 24 hours a day to assist motorists with flat tires, dead batteries or overheated engines.
Most public-transit systems will follow a holiday schedule and will not operate a fixed route or Dial-A-Ride service on Independence Day. Contact your local transit agency at www.wsdot.wa.gov/choices for more information.
Most DOT construction crews will stop work by noon today and resume on Wednesday morning.
Snoqualmie Pass traffic: Expect heavy traffic on Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass today, especially eastbound during the afternoon and early evening, and on Tuesday, especially westbound from noon to midnight.
In the summer, more than 30,000 vehicles cross the pass each day; on holiday weekends, daily traffic can reach 50,000 vehicles, according to the DOT.
The record one-day traffic volume was set July 7, 2003, with 58,000 vehicles crossing Snoqualmie Pass.
Kirkland: On Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday nights, expect closures of up to three northbound lanes and up to two southbound lanes on Interstate 405 in the Totem Lake area for work on the new Northeast 128th Street bridge. Lanes may start to close as early as 7 each night. All northbound lanes will reopen by 6 a.m. and all southbound lanes by 5 a.m. On Sunday, northbound lanes will reopen by 11 a.m. and southbound lanes will reopen by 9 a.m.
The northbound I-405 onramp from eastbound Northeast 124th Street is scheduled to reopen by 4 p.m. today. This ramp has been closed around the clock since last Friday.
Expect night closures of this onramp Wednesday and Thursday night from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. for paving and striping. A detour will be in place.
Lisa Chiu: 206-464-3347 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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