“On Wednesday, January 10th from 3:00 p.m. to about 9:00 p.m. the Seattle, WA area got hit hard with ice and snow that coated the roadways right during terrible rush hour traffic. This same type of storm happened in Nov. and I got stuck in it for 9 hours and had to abandon my car. This time I prepared and purchased Super-Z tire chains. I had a shop nearby my work put them on around 5:00 p.m. We watched the weather sites online and decided to wait it out to venture home. I work on the Eastside and must go over bridges to get to my home in Seattle. At 9:00 p.m. we decided to brave it. By this time the snow was more of a slush mix and not as many drivers were on the roads. I called the State Trooper line to see if it was ok for me to drive in my chains home and I was advised to drive 30 miles an hour (the fastest I can go with chains on) and keep to the far left with my flashers on, which I did. I drove very causiously and kept my distance away from other drivers. In my opinion, a lot of drivers were driving recklessly and too fast for the conditions even though they had improved. Here is my situation and question:
I was driving on a highway that turns into a bridge over Lake Washington. I was in the far left lane with my flashers on. The speed limit in regular conditions is 50 and I was going about 30. There are 3 lanes for the majority of the way. No one was behind me and people were passing on the right. Suddenly I noticed a large vehicle behind me with flashing lights. It was not a police vehicle. I though maybe it was an ambulance. I stayed where I was because I didn’t want to move over going so slow and the vehicle had plenty of clearance to go around me. When it didn’t move I moved over to the other lane. It stayed there. I moved back over and my coworker and I faintly heard a voice. I couldn’t tell if it was coming from the vehicle and there was no pull over spot so it would be unsafe to stop on the bridge. I pulled over once we got to the first exit. The man was a Washington State DOT worker that came up to my vehicle. He was irrate and screaming at me that I was going to slow on an interstate and caused 3 accidents behind me. He said that I should have taken side roads if I was going to be going too slow. I said that I had to go over the bridge to get home and that I was advised to put my flashers on and stay in the far left lane and that I was making sure to check my rear window often and didn’t see anyone behind me. He had told me that he took my license number down and I’m not sure if he said that he informed a state trooper or if there was a state trooper behind me. I asked him if I should wait there for the state trooper. He then changed his story and said “I could have caused an accident” and told me to get off on the exit and take the back roads.
The experience was very upsetting and tramatic for me. I am a woman and to have a man scream at me like that and pull me over who was not an officer scared me. I’m so confused by the experience. I would like to know if I was truely in the wrong and if I legally had to pull over for a Department of Transportation vehicle. The man was not very professional and seemed like at one point he was lying to me.
Sorry this is so long but I wanted to give details. Can you advise me?”
If you are going below the speed limit, stay to the right. Despite what you believe you were told on the phone, you have no presumptive right to obstruct traffic. It is my opinion (though you might want to check it out with an attorney) that any slight claim you might have regarding false imprisonment for the time you were yelled at on the side of the road, is far outweighed by the risk of accident you were causing by riding in the fast lane in a slow moving vehicle.