Rude ferry line behavior can result in a fine

Impolite ferry riders could start collecting more than just angry looks or gestures this week as a new state law took effect making some bad behavior of motorists waiting for boats actually against the law.

According to Senate Bill 5088, as of July 22 it is considered a traffic infraction to either “block a residential driveway or move in front of another vehicle in a queue while waiting to board a Washington State Ferry.”

Sgt. Craig Johnson, a spokesman with the Washington State Patrol, said the new law will allow his fellow troopers and other law enforcement officers to give drivers civil violations of $124 for such actions.

“The law is just another tool in our tool box,” Johnson said, explaining that up until now “there was more of informal way of handling things,” and drivers who cut in front of other cars would be asked to start over at the back of the line. However, he said without the new law there was no recourse for ferry workers or officers if a driver refused to do so.

As with most infractions, Johnson said a trooper will typically have to witness the violation before writing anyone a ticket, and that most instances will likely be handled the same as before.

“Usually, if a driver has someone cut in front of them, they tell the ticket seller, and they can send them to the back of the line,” he said.

Susan Harris-Huether, spokeswoman for the WSF, said that still is the best way to handle such situations, though just one complaint against a person will not work.

“We need two people to report a person before we can ask them to go to the back of the line,” Harris-Huether said, explaining that the new law came about after repeated complaints from a frequent user of the Mukilteo-Clinton route. “I had to tell him, ‘I need to explain to you that it’s not against the law to cut in front of somebody in a WSF line.’”

Now that it is against the law, she predicted that tickets won’t be issued in most situations, but rather only when “somebody gets belligerent.”

As for cars blocking driveways, Harris-Huether said that has been an issue “for a long time on Fauntleroy Way” as motorists line-up for the commute home to either Southworth or Vashon Island.

But with the extensive signage and cross-hatching on the road to give clear indications about where you should not stop your car, Harris-Huether said motorists blocking driveways are usually tourists or other infrequent ferry users.

“Somebody who lives in Port Orchard should know not to block a driveway,” she said, explaining that she expects tickets will not be given to confused drivers making honest mistakes, but for instances of “continuous” or hazardous blocking.

As for possible changes to the loading procedures for motorcycles, Harris-Huether said that will not happen and those vehicles will still be loaded first. Other vehicles exempt from the law are emergency vehicles, school buses and public transit vehicles.

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