Rules of the Road

While we (at SDOT) continue to redesign Seattle's streets and work toward long-term Vision Zero goals, it's also important to recognize that each of us has a role to play in looking out for each other as we move around the city. Every year, we see the same top contributing factors to serious and fatal crashes: speeding, distraction, impairment, and failure to yield to pedestrians.

Maybe you're new to the area or maybe it's been a while since drivers ed. Either way, we've laid out some key rules and good practices below whether you're driving, riding a bike, walking, or rolling. Together, we can get closer to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries on our streets. 

On this page you will find rules of the road for:

Visit our Scooter Share page to learn how to safely ride an electric scooter.

People driving

Drive like our lives depend on it.

Recognize your responsibility when you get behind the wheel of a 2+ ton machine. You have precious cargo inside (yourself and others) and can do a lot of damage to people outside of your vehicle.  

Slow down. It's not worth it.

  • Give yourself enough time and plan ahead so you're not in a hurry.
  • Know the limit: 20 MPH on all residential streets, 25 MPH on most arterials (streets with a yellow line down the middle) in Seattle.
  • Visit our Speed Limits page to learn more about how and why we've been lowering speed limits in Seattle.

Video credit: Massachusetts Department of Transportation

Keep your eyes on the road.

  • Put your phone away and limit other distractions. No handheld cell phone use while driving - even when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light.
  • Use technology for good: turn on your phone's do not disturb setting (iPhone, Android). It will sense when you are driving/moving in a vehicle and limit phone calls and text messages.

Drive sober.

If you're going to drink or use drugs, don't get behind the wheel. Make a plan - use transit, grab a cab or ride share, find a designated driver, or stay home.

All intersections are crosswalks.

  • Stop for people walking and rolling. Unless otherwise signed, every intersection is a legal crossing, whether it's marked or not. Look out at each intersection and come to a complete stop for people looking to cross.
  • If approaching an intersection with no stop sign or traffic light, in the absence of a person waiting to cross the street, the driver to the left must yield to the driver on the right. 

An image showing that all sides of the intersection are legal crosswalks, not just the one marked with paint.

Look out for each other.

People walking, biking, and rolling have every right to their share of the street. And most of us are pedestrians at one point in the day. Above all else, remember that we are all people trying to get around safely; trying to get home to our families and friends. We are in this together. Yes, this is about following the rules, but it's also very much about treating each other with dignity, kindness, and civility.  

Video credit: Rooted in Rights

People on bikes belong.

  • People biking may legally use as much of the lane as they need for safety.
  • When passing someone biking, give at least three feet of passing space.
  • When turning, look for and yield to people biking.
  • When you're leaving a parked car, always look around for people biking and other people driving. Open doors slowly. Tip: before opening a car door on the traffic side, use your far hand to open the door - it'll naturally shift you into a position to look for others. This practice is known as the "Dutch Reach."  

Useful links

People walking, using wheelchairs

  • Look left, right, left and over your shoulder.
  • People driving should be looking and stopping for people walking, but it's still important to look both ways and watch for turning vehicles.  
  • All intersections are crosswalks, but not everyone is paying attention (or knows that's the law).
  • Unless otherwise signed, every intersection is a legal crossing whether it's marked or unmarked. Unfortunately, not everyone recognizes that. Yes, pedestrians generally have the right of way, but we advise looking both ways and proceeding with caution.  

Useful links

People biking

  • Always wear a helmet. Make sure it's property fitted.
  • Light up your ride. Use a front and rear light.
  • Pay attention and stay alert. Don't use earbuds or phones while riding.
  • Ride confidently and predictably. Use hand signals, don't weave in and out of traffic.
  • Riding on sidewalks. Bicycle riding on the sidewalk is allowed; make sure to yield to people walking. E-scooters are not allowed to ride on sidewalks. More on e-scooters/scooter share.
  • Okay to yield at STOP signs. In Washington, it's acceptable to treat stop signs as yield signs when biking. People biking must still fully stop at traffic lights, stop signs on school buses, and stop signs at railroad crossings. This also doesn't change the rules of the road for scooters. Research has shown that letting (and legalizing!) people biking to "take the lead" at intersections (which many already do) improves safety and may also improve intersection efficiency.Learn more on our blog.

Useful links