In State v. Brown the Washington Supreme Court was asked to answer the question whether or not RCW 46.61.305 requires a driver to use their turn signal every time they turn or change lanes on a roadway. The Washington Supreme Court held that a turn signal is required every time a driver turns or changes lanes on the roadway. The Court of Appeals opinion can be found here: https://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/353044_pub.pdf  The Supreme Court’s Opinion can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/f5cvbsmh

RCW 46.61.305 states:

  • No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal in the manner hereinafter provided.
  • A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning.  https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.305

On March 22, 2005 Mr. Brown was driving in Kennewick Washington. He made several turns only letting his blinker click a couple of times and made one turn without executing his turn signal.  Mr. Brown was stopped.  As a result of the stop Mr. Brown was charged with DUI.   In District Court, Mr. Brown move to suppress the evidence gathered after the traffic stop because he argued that he was not required to use his blinker under RCW 46.61.305. At the district court, the court found that the patrol officer had no cause to stop Mr. Brown.  As a result, the breath test was suppressed and the case was dismissed. The state then appealed.  

A law enforcement officer may conduct a warrantless traffic stop under article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution as an investigative stop if based on at least a reasonable articulable suspicion of either criminal activity or a traffic infraction. State v. Arreola, 176 Wn.2d 284, 292-93, 290 P.3d 983 (2012).

The Court held: The plain language of .305(1) sets out two requirements: safe movement and use of an appropriate signal. See State v. Lemus Lemus, 103 Wn. App. 94, 99, 11 P.3d 326 (2000) (“Paraphrased in the affirmative, RCW 46.61.305(1) plainly means that the driver must make a lane change safely and with an appropriate signal.”). The signal requirement in .305(1) is modified by the prepositional phrase “in the manner hereinafter provided.” Subsection .305(2) then describes the manner of signaling: a signal of intention to turn or move when required shall be given continuously for not less than the last 100 feet traveled by a vehicle. This provision sets out the manner of giving a turn signal; it does not describe when a signal is required.

The plain language of RCW 46.61.305 requires a driver to signal his or her intent to turn or change lanes on a roadway. The phrase “when required” relates to the manner in which that signal is made. Brown did not continuously signal his intent to turn left; therefore, he violated RCW 46.61.305. This is the only issue before the court. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.