Driving in a city that you're not familiar with can be a nerve-racking experience! It can be hard enough just navigating around Seattle, never mind the driving laws and speed limits, without even thinking about the fact that you might be on the wrong side of the road if you're an international visitor.
SeattleRentalCar.net are here to make sure your time spent in Seattle is remembered for all the right reasons. So, to help customers on vacation in our city, we've put together a guide to driving in Seattle and throughout Washington using our local knowledge of what to expect from the drivers here and information about state laws.
Here are a few tips for safe driving in Seattle.
It is considered illegal for any driver to use his/her mobile phone while driving. It is allowed to use a mobile phone while driving only in critical situations, like reporting that someone is performing illegal activities or when someone's life is endangered. However, any other reason is not accepted and the driver can receive a fine up to $200. This law applies not only in Seattle but on the entire Washington state territory. If you really need to use the phone, the only way is to pull your car on the right side of the road, safely use the phone then start back again.
Inside Seattle the speed limit is set to 30mph (48 km/h) on most of the streets. In residential areas you need to reduce the speed down to 25mph (40 km/h). Please note that there are a lot of speeding cameras which automatically detect if someone is driving faster than the limit. In the rural areas outside Seattle you are allowed to drive with 60mph (96 km/h). On the highways and motorways you are allowed to speed up to 70 mph (112km/h). Any driver who ignores the speed limits can be left without the driving privilege for at least 30 days.
During the winter the temperatures can get pretty low. Often on the surface of the road there are thin layers of ice which increase the skidding risk. The roads in Seattle are well-maintained during the winter but you should always drive at least 5mph (8km/h) slower than usual. Make sure you have some good winter tires and even a pair of snow chains in your trunk, just in case. Check the antifreeze level and make sure you have more fuel than necessary when you decide to travel for more than 30 minutes. If the visibility is reduced make sure you use the dipped beam.
Drinking and Driving
If you are arrested for drinking and driving, the penalties are severe. Anyone who has a higher blood alcohol concentration than 0.08% risks of being arrested. If you are lucky, you can escape only with a 30 days driving privilege suspension and with a $300 fine. Drivers under the age of 21 are not allowed to drive if they have a blood alcohol concentration higher than 0.02%. Police officers often stop drivers just to ask them to take the blood alcohol test. If you refuse to do so, your driving privilege will be removed for at least one year.