Understanding the Regulations of Cutting Through Parking Lots in WA State

We've all been there - stuck at a red light with no cars coming in either direction. The temptation to cut through a nearby parking lot or take a shortcut down a side road can be irresistible.

27th Avenue and 395
credit: google street view

But is it legal?

In Washington State, there's a term for this practice: rat running. And while it might be convenient, it could also land you in hot water with the law.

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I was driving to an appointment on Sylvester in Pasco when a white truck cut through the Sun Mart parking like a bat of heck to avoid the red stop light.

I think it's illegal to blatantly do that and the truck barely missed a Pasco Police cruiser.

So, is "rat running" illegal in Washington State?

Unraveling the Legality of Slicing Through Parking Lots in Washington State

First things first: what exactly is rat running?

Essentially, it refers to the practice of cutting through parking lots to avoid a red light.  While this might not sound like a big deal, it can have serious impacts on neighborhoods and the safety of drivers and pedestrians.

Imagine if everyone in your neighborhood decided to use your driveway as a shortcut to avoid traffic - you'd likely see an increase in the risk of accidents.

Three traffic lights against blue sky background

So, is it illegal to rat run in Washington State? The answer is a bit complex.

While there's no specific law against using alternate routes to avoid traffic, there are several rules that could land you in trouble.

According to KATU-2 News, Edmonds, Lynnwood, Snohomish, Enumclaw, and Bellingham have laws against cutting corners through a public or private lot to avoid an intersection.

Here are a few examples where you could get tickets, if you cut through a private parking lot without permission, you could be ticketed for trespassing. Similarly, if you violate any traffic laws (such as speeding, failing to yield, or running a stop sign), you could be pulled over by police.

But why is rat running such a problem in the first place?

Aside from the impact on neighborhoods, it can also contribute to congestion on main roads. When large numbers of drivers seek out shortcuts, it can overwhelm smaller residential streets and make it even harder for everyone to get where they're going.

Additionally, rat running can be dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists who may not be expecting large numbers of cars on their normally quiet streets.

Kennewick police
Kennewick police

If you're caught rat running in Washington State, what can you expect?

Depending on the specific violation, you could be looking at fines or even jail time in extreme cases. More often than not, though, you'll simply receive a ticket.

So while it's not illegal to cut through a parking lot to avoid a red light, you can still get ticketed but at this time most of the citations issued have been warnings.

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