Fun and/or Interesting Statutes in Oregon and Washington State

Posted by Bradley Thayer | May 20, 2019 | 0 Comments

Sometimes, as we research the legal issues we encounter, the laws we encounter are fascinating.  A few examples [the following is the furthest thing possible from legal advice and in no way should be construed as such!]:


  • RCW 46.61.665 prohibits “embracing another while driving”.  It is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle “when such person has in his or her embrace another person which prevents the free and unhampered operation of such vehicle.”  A violation of the statute can serve as prima facie evidence of reckless driving.  Your hugs can wait!
  • Speaking of stupid ways to distract drivers, this might be a good opportunity to mention RCW 46.61.672, which prohibits “Using a personal electronic device while driving” in Washington – it shouldn't shock anyone to learn that it is illegal, not to mention ridiculously dangerous, to try to drive while distracted by a cell phone or other electronic device – what might be remarkable is the fact that Washington lawmakers felt it was necessary to specify that “watching video on a personal electronic device” is also illegal while driving.
  • Crosswalks aren't always what you may think they are – under RCW 46.61.235, for example, a pedestrian may lawfully cross at the juncture of roads even in an “unmarked” crosswalk [RCW 47.04.010(10) defines “Crosswalk” to essentially include the extension of the sidewalk out across the road it abuts at the intersection (except as modified by a marked crosswalk)].  If you are a pedestrian or bicyclist crossing in or at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, however, keep in mind that your right of way isn't absolute at intersections – RCW 46.61.235(2), for example, says “No pedestrian or bicycle shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk, run, or otherwise move into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impossible for the driver to stop.”


  • ORS 811.172 requires a person to refrain from—while riding in a motor vehicle—throwing, putting, or otherwise leaving “a container of urine or other human waste on or beside the highway.”  A person who affirmatively commits these actions has committed the offense of “improperly disposing of human waste”.
  • Under ORS 811.710, a driver who knows or has reason to believe they've injured or killed a domestic animal must immediately stop at the scene or as close as possible and reasonably investigate.  The driver must further make a reasonable effort to determine the nature of the animal's injuries and give reasonable attention to the animal.  Beyond that, the driver must report the injury to the animal's owner immediately.  If not able to contact the owner of the animal, a driver may instead notify a police officer.  If, for whatever reason, the driver doesn't figure out they've potentially injured or killed a domestic animal until they've left the scene, they must—as soon as reasonably possible—make a good-faith effort to do those things outlined above.
  • A dog cannot be carried on the external part of a vehicle, for example, the “hood, fender, running board, or other external part of any automobile or truck” unless the dog is “protected by framework, carrier or other device sufficient to keep it from falling from the vehicle.” ORS 811.200.  This, presumably, might include a truck bed with the tailgate closed.
  • A child cannot be carried on the external part of the vehicle either. ORS 811.205.  And “the open bed of a motor vehicle is [considered] an external part of a motor vehicle” in the context of carrying children.  Exceptions to this are carved out in the statute, though, as long as the tailgate is securely closed, for example, if a child is being transported “between a hunting camp and a hunting site or between hunting sites during hunting season; and the minor has a hunting license” [In Washington, the applicable statute prohibiting carrying people or animals on the outside part of a vehicle is RCW 46.61.660].
  • ORS 811.507 is Oregon's counterpart to Washington's distracted driving law.  Mobile electronic devices just aren't the right thing to pay attention to when you are behind the wheel of a car.
  • ORS 811.028 addresses Oregon drivers' obligations with regard to pedestrians and bicyclists on or crossing the roadway – ORS 814.010 addresses pedestrians' duties at intersections; like Washington's laws, in Oregon, pedestrians are prohibited from leaving a curb and moving into the path of a vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. 

About the Author

Bradley Thayer

Brad Thayer is a partner at the Schauermann Thayer firm. Brad is licensed in both Oregon and Washington. He has been practicing law since 2015. He was presented the 2018 Rising Star Award by the Clark County Bar Association. Brad's practice focuses on automobile collision, motorcycle, bicycle, pedestrian injury, dog bite, and myriad other types of injury and insurance cases. During his free time, Brad enjoys following the Portland Trail Blazers, playing basketball, going to concerts, and playing the drums. He especially enjoys hiking in the Columbia River Gorge and exploring other Northwest wonders.


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