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Information · Frequently Asked Questions

The Washington State Patrol remains committed to achieving excellence in public safety by striving to improve in professionalism and service to the public.

Select a category of most frequently asked questions or browse the page of to view the answers:

If you cannot find the answer you were looking for or have additional questions,
please contact us at questions@wsp.wa.gov.

Travel & Road Conditions


How can I find out about road conditions?

Road conditions, traffic cameras, weather, ferry schedules, traffic flow maps and more can be found on WSDOT's Traveler Information Web site at wsdot.wa.gov/traffic. You can also call the 5-1-1 line or tune to your local radio station.

Where can I find mountain pass information?

Mountain pass information including cameras, roadway conditions and restrictions, current radio messages and weather conditions and forecasts at WSDOT's Mountain Pass Web site at www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/passes/. You can also call the 5-1-1 line or tune to your local radio station.

What are the approved traction devices and when should I use them?

Answers to commonly asked traction questions are on our Traction Devices page or by going to WSDOT Winter Driving Tips page at www.wsdot.wa.gov/winter/.

Alternative Traction Devices certified by their manufacturer as meeting the requirements outlined in WAC 204-24-035 may be used as an approved traction device in Washington State. This list of approved devices may be accessed online at http://www.wsp.wa.gov/traveler/traction.htm.

Is SR 410 closed in the winter?

Yes. It is usually reopened in late spring, after Memorial Day.

What construction projects are in progress that I need to know about?

Go to WSDOT's Traveler Information page at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/construction/ for a current report on all construction projects in progress as well as their Travel Alerts page located at: www.wsdot.wa.gov/traffic/trafficalerts/.

Can I travel in the left lane of traffic all of the time?

No. The law reads "stay to the right except to pass." Signs are posted.

Can I use medians on I-5 and I-90 to turn around when traffic backs up?

No. The infraction for driving through a median carries a minimum fine of $388. Only DOT maintenance vehicles and emergency vehicles are allowed in the medians. See RCW 46.61.150.

Do I have to use my turn signal every time I make a lane change?

Yes. See RCW 46.61.305.

What do I do if I approach an intersection and the signals are not working?

An intersection with a non-functioning light should be treated as an all-way stop. Unless you are directed by a flagger, police officer, or firefighter, you must stop and yield to the vehicle on the right or to oncoming traffic if you are preparing to turn left.

Can a person ride a bicycle on Washington's state and interstate highways?

Yes, except for "high density" areas of the state such as King, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties which have signs posted at on-ramps to indicate if bicycles are prohibited.

Who is authorized to use HOV lanes?

1) Rubber tired municipal transit vehicles conforming to RCW 46.04.355 ; 2) Buses with a capacity of sixteen or more, including operator; 3) Motorcycles conforming to RCW 46.04.330 ; 4) Recreational vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs; 5) Other vehicles with the number of occupants specified on signs (See RCW 46.61.165 and 47.52.025). All trucks exceeding 10,000 lb. G.V.W. are prohibited from using HOV lanes at any time, except for tow trucks en route to an emergency on a specific roadway or roadside.

The HERO Program operates a 24-hour telephone hotline (206) 764-HERO for reporting observed violations of the HOV lanes and ramps.

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Abandoned Vehicles, Towing/Impounds, & VIN Inspections


What is a VIN inspection and when am I required to have one done?

Beginning July 1, 2001, vehicles brought into Washington from another state or country go through a stolen-vehicle screening process within the Department of Licensing before a Washington State title is issued. The new law eliminates the physical VIN inspection of an out-of-state vehicle by the Washington State Patrol.

The State Patrol will continue to perform physical inspections on rebuilt vehicles that were destroyed or declared a total loss by an insurance company. They will also perform inspections on homemade vehicles, stolen vehicles, vehicles without a proper VIN, vehicles with a VIN discrepancy, vehicles with a record or ownership dispute, and other special cases. See our VIN Page for more information.

What will happen if a vehicle is identified as stolen?

Under the law, if a vehicle is reported and identified as stolen, the Department of Licensing (DOL) will notify the owner that a physical inspection of the vehicle is required and forward the report to the State Patrol for follow up. The owner has 30 days to get a vehicle inspection or the registration will be canceled and no title will be issued. The record will be flagged to prevent future registration until the vehicle's status is resolved. See our VIN Page for more information.

Is emissions testing required? Where can I get it done?

Emissions testing is required in Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties. For more information, see the Department of Ecology Web site.

My vehicle was towed/impounded? Where can I find it? Is there a charge?

Call your local city or county law enforcement agency to determine which tow company has your vehicle. If your vehicle was impounded on a state or interstate route, call the local State Patrol office. Once you have located your vehicle, you may contact the tow company directly.

How long can a vehicle remain abandoned on an interstate or state route?

Normally, you have 24 hours before an abandoned vehicle is impounded. If a vehicle is a hazard or is abandoned next to the left lane, it will be subject to immediate impoundment.

If I'm involved in an accident with another vehicle on I-5 and we are blocking the road, should we move our vehicles off the roadway to a safe location?

If no one is injured and the vehicles can be driven, moving to a safer location will help facilitate the flow of traffic and provide you with a safer environment.

How do I obtain a new license in the state of Washington?

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) is only in charge of the enforcement of driver and vehicle license rules as set by the Department of Licensing (DOL). For information or questions relating to obtaining a drivers license, vehicle license, commercial driver’s license, or motorcycle endorsements, please visit www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/gettingalicense.html, or call DOL at (360) 902-3900 for driver’s license information, or (360) 902-3770 for vehicle license information.

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Vehicle Classifications & Requirements


How do I need to license my scooter in order to legally operate it on the roadway?

In the state of Washington, any two or three wheeled vehicle will either be licensed as a motorcycle or a moped depending on the engine size and how fast the vehicle travels.

If the vehicle travels less than 30 mph and has an engine size of less than 50cc, it will be licensed as a moped in the state of Washington and the driver would be required to have a valid drivers license in order to operate it on the roadway. These vehicles are only allowed to operate on roadways that do not exceed 35 mph and must follow any additional restrictions set within their local jurisdictions.

If the vehicle travels more than 30 mph or has an engine size greater than 50cc, it will be licensed as a motorcycle in the state of Washington and the driver would be required to have the proper endorsement on the drivers license in order to operate it on the roadway. These vehicles must follow the rules of the road for motorcycles and may be operated on any public roadway where the vehicle can maintain the posted speed limit of that roadway.

Can an off-road vehicle or motorcycle be licensed for street use in the state of Washington?

For any vehicle with three or four wheels: No, in order for a vehicle to be street legal, the vehicle must meet the federal requirements for road use and be certified by the manufacturer to meet those standards. Therefore, the vehicle must be originally manufactured for road use in order to be licensed in Washington State.

For a two-wheel motorcycle: Effective January 1, 2012, an off-road motorcycle that has two wheels, a seat designed to be straddled and handlebars for steering, and was labeled by the manufacturer as off road use only on the statement of origin, frame or owners manual may be licensed. A Converted off-road motorcycle may be licensed IF all required equipment is placed on the vehicle and certified by a licensed dealership or repair facility as complying with all federal and state laws and the owner files the proper declaration form and pays the fees required through the Department of Licensing (DOL). For more information please visit the DOL Web site at www.dol.wa.gov.

What can my vehicle be classified as and what equipment is required?

The vehicle classification and required equipment for a vehicle depends on the type of vehicle and its intended use. Below is a list of the main vehicle classifications in Washington State along with a brief description and a link to additional requirements for each vehicle.

Street Legal Vehicles

  • Passenger Vehicle – any vehicle that has four or more wheels in contact with the ground. These vehicles must meet the state and federal requirements for a motor vehicle.
  • Motorcycle – any vehicle that has two or three wheels in contact with the ground. These vehicles must meet the state and federal requirements for a motorcycle.
  • Converted Off-Road Motorcycle –any vehicle designated by its manufacturer as off-road only that has two wheels and is designed to be straddled and steered with handlebars. In order to convert an off-road motorcycle, owners must file a declaration form with Department of Licensing which includes certification by a licensed dealership or repair shop that the equipment meets the state and federal standards for a motorcycle.

Street legal vehicles with speed restrictions

  • Moped – any vehicle that travels less than 30 mph AND has an engine size of less than 50cc AND has two or three wheels in contact with the ground. These vehicles must meet the state and federal requirements for a motor-driven cycle.
  • Low Speed Electric Vehicles – any electric vehicle that travels on four wheels at a speed less than 35 mph may be classified as a Medium Speed Vehicle (25-35mph) or a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (up to 25mph). These vehicles must meet the state and federal requirements for low speed electric vehicles.

Motorized Devices not licensable in Washington State and may only be operated under certain restrictions

  • Golf Cart – any vehicle originally designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting purposes and has a speed attainable in one mile of not more than 25 mph. These may only be driven in a golf cart zone designated by city or county ordinance, and must be operated and have the required equipment as outlined in state law and local ordinances.
  • Electric Assisted Bicycle – any bicycle with an electric motor that is not capable of propelling the device (with or without motive power) at speeds greater than 20 mph. These vehicles must be ridden in accordance with all state and local restrictions and must have the required equipment as outlined in state law.
  • Electric Personal Assisted Mobility Device (EPAMD) – a self-balancing device with two wheels not in tandem, designed to transport only one person by an electric propulsion system at speeds not greater than 20 mph. These vehicles must be ridden in accordance with all state and local restrictions and must have the required equipment as outlined in state law.
  • Motorized Foot Scooter - a device with no more than 2 ten-inch or smaller diameter wheels that has handlebars, is designed to be stood upon by the operator, and is powered by an internal combustion engine or electric motor that is capable of propelling the device with or without human propulsion at a speed no more than twenty miles per hour on level ground. These vehicles must be ridden in accordance with all state and local restrictions and must have the required equipment as outlined in state law.
  • Off-Road Vehicle/Motorcycle - any nonstreet licensed vehicle when used for recreational purposes on nonhighway roads, trails, or a variety of other natural terrain. Such vehicles include, but are not limited to, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, four-wheel drive vehicles, and dune buggies. These vehicles must be ridden in accordance with all state and local restrictions. Except that two-wheel off-road motorcycles may be licensable After January 1, 2012, if they are converted to meet state and federal standards, see Converted Off-Road Motorcycle for more information.

I want to have my car windows tinted. Are there any restrictions in this state?

      Information on tinting or coloring vehicle windows can be found in RCW 46.37.430.

What aftermarket equipment or alterations can legally be made to my vehicle?

No alterations may be made to a vehicle which prohibits the required equipment on the vehicle from performing as intended. A list of some of the additional restrictions and requirements for aftermarket equipment on vehicles may be found by clicking on the following links.

What is legal height, width, and length?

Height: 14 feet
Width: 8 ft. 6 in.
Length: Single Vehicle - 40 feet (Auto Stage, Motor home 46 feet)
Semi Trailer - 53 feet (Can purchase permit to 56 feet)
Double Trailers - 61 feet (Can purchase permit to 68 feet)
Truck and Trailer - 75 feet
Auto/Boat Transporter - 75 feet
(plus 3-foot overhang and 4-foot rear overhang) (stinger steered)

What motorcycle helmets are legal and provide proper protection?

See the Bogus motorcycle helmets page with information on buying legal helmets.

What are the requirements to license a trailer in Washington State?

Trailers must have all of the proper safety equipment installed on them in order to be legally operated on the public highway. Refer to the Inspection and Trailer Requirements document for additional information outlining these requirements.

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Commercial Vehicles & Regulations


Where can I find information about the new Intrastate DOT Number requirements?

An informational brochure is available by clicking here. On-line registration and assistance is available on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site.

How much can I haul?

An axle spacing chart can be found in RCW 46.44.041.

What are the hours of travel for oversize vehicles on weekends?

Travel during the weekend is the same as during the week, except there are no commuter hours through the major metropolitan areas.

How do I find out more about the Unified Carrier Registration program?

Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) program replaced the Single State Registration (SSRS) program. To register, please visit the http://www.ucr.in.gov site.

If you have questions, pleass contact the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission at (360) 664-1222 or via e-mail at transportation@wutc.wa.gov.

What loads can travel during hours of darkness?

Limitations are 100 feet in length, 12 feet wide, and 14 feet 6 inches in height. Rear overhang measured from center of last axle; cannot exceed 15 feet. This does not include commuter hours.

What do I need to enter the state of Washington?

  • Vehicle Licensing, permits
  • Fuel license (IFTA)
  • Single State Registration (if for hire)

When am I required to have a CDL?

  • Class B - Single vehicle with Gross Vehicle Weight Rating over 26,000 pounds
  • Class A - If trailer is over 10,000 pounds and combination is over 26,000 pounds
  • Class C - Weight limitations are less than above and the vehicle is loaded with Hazardous Materials or over 16 passengers, including driver

Note: The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is the GVWR as specified by manufacturer located on vehicle door post.

For more information on how to obtain a CDL please visit the Department of Licensing Web site at http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/cdl.html.

What size trucks have to report to the scale?

Trucks with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of over 16,000 pounds.

Can I come to the Port of Entry to get my permit?

No. Please see our locations and phone numbers directory for obtaining permits.

Can I get a permit over the phone?

You can get a permit faxed from the following locations before entering the state:

  • Washington State Department of Transportation - (360) 704-6340, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • Washington Trucking Association - (800) 732-9019, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • Permit Express - (800) 553-5358, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday
  • Transceiver - (800) 749-6015, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m, Monday through Friday

Are Ports of Entry open on weekends?

Yes.

Where can I buy temporary licensing, not Trip Permits?

For information regarding commercial vehicle permits, please see the Washington State Department of Licensing, Permits: Commercial Vehicles.

When is an escort car required?

  • Over 11 feet in width requires one front and one rear pilot car on two-lane highways
  • Vehicle(s) or load is over 11 feet in width; escort cars (both front and rear) are required on all twolane highways.
  • Vehicle(s) or load is over 14 feet wide; one rear escort vehicle is required on multiple-lane highways.
  • Trailer length including load exceeds 105 ft., of a tractor/trailer combination, requires a rear escort car on all two-lane highways.
  • Trailer length including load exceeds 125 ft., of a tractor/trailer combination, requires a rear escort car on multiple-lane highways.
  • Rear overhang of a tractor/trailer or truck/trailer combination exceeds 1/3 of the trailer length including load, requires one rear escort on twolane highways.
  • Rear overhang exceeds 20 feet of a single unit vehicle, requires one rear escort car on two-lane highways.
  • Loads exceed 14 feet and 6 inches high, one escort vehicle is required in front equipped with a height pole. Manufactured housing requires front escort with height pole when exceeding 15 feet in height. The Department does not guarantee height clearances; therefore, on any route where the height is in question, a front escort vehicle equipped with a height pole should be used.
  • In the opinion of the Department of Transportation, escort vehicles are necessary to protect the traveling public, for any overdimensional and/or overweight move, either across, upon, or along a highway.

For more information see Special Motor Vehicle Permit Regulations and Conditions.

What are the permit prices?

Single Trip - $10.00
Over width, over height, over length, or any combination of
Weight-Non reducible loads over axle or over gross
(over dimensions are included at no additional cost)

30-Day/Monthly
Over width with over height - $20.00
Over length - $10.00
Over width and over height and over length - $30.00

Annual
Single Trailer - $100.00
Double Trailers - $100.00
All Others - 30 day price x 12

Temporary Additional Tonnage
Minimum 5 days; Maximum 10 days - $14.00 x each 2,000 lbs.

Log Tolerance
April 1 to March 31 - $50.00
July 1 to March 31 - $37.50
October 1 to March 31 - $25.00
January 1 to March 31 - $12.50

Transfers - $14.00

What is legal height, width, and length?

Height: 14 feet
Width: 8 ft. 6 in.
Length: Single Vehicle - 40 feet (Auto Stage, Motor home 46 feet)
Semi Trailer - 53 feet (Can purchase permit to 56 feet)
Double Trailers - 61 feet (Can purchase permit to 68 feet)
Truck and Trailer - 75 feet
Auto/Boat Transporter - 75 feet
(plus 3-foot overhang and 4-foot rear overhang) (stinger steered)

Are you open 24 hours?

Yes. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. However, Ports of Entry are closed New Years Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, and Christmas.

Do you take comp checks?

No. We accept cash, Master Card, Visa, company checks, or personal checks from a Washington State bank branch.

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Trooper Information


How do I become a trooper and what are the requirements?

Details about becoming a trooper, including links to the minimum requirements, the application, and testing information, can be found at the Trooper Career FAQ page.

Trooper cadet applications are also available at all State Patrol offices. You may also call 1-800-888-8384 or (360) 704-2300, email jobs@wsp.wa.gov, or write to:

Human Resource Division
Washington State Patrol
PO Box 42620
Olympia, WA 98504-2620

Does the Washington State Patrol have a ride-along program?

No, not for the general public.

I see troopers pulling people over at the end of the month. Are there quotas?

No. Troopers are not expected to write a specific number of traffic infractions. Their performance is rated on their overall ability to perform all of the duties required of them.

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Public Records & Background Checks


How do I request public records from the State Patrol? Is there a fee?

Please review our Public Records page.

Where and how do I obtain a background check?

Go to the Identification and Criminal History Section page.

I sent in a request for a criminal records check. How long will it take?

A response may take anywhere from three to ten weeks. If this amount of time has passed, you may call (360) 534-2000 for further information. The hours are 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, except legal holidays.

Where can I have my fingerprints taken?

Your local police department or sheriff's office offers fingerprinting services.

The State Patrol's Identification and Criminal History Section provides fingerprinting services for people who need a fingerprint-based background check for employment or licensing (excluding weapons) purposes. You can call the Customer Service Unit at (360) 534-2000. The hours are 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m to 5 p.m. weekdays, except legal holidays.

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Violations, Fines & Collision Reports


How does the State Patrol set fines for speeding and other traffic violations?

The Washington State Patrol does not set fines for speeding and traffic violations. The base penalty is set by the Washington State Supreme Court (RCW 46.63.110) but does not include statutory assessments, which are set by the State Legislature. The Monetary Penalty Schedule for Infractions (effective July 1, 2007) can be viewed from the Washington Courts Web site.

I lost my speeding ticket. How much do I owe and where do I send the fine?

This can be a difficult question to answer. Fines are paid to different district and municipal courts -- depending on which police agency issued the ticket (citation) and where it was issued.

First, if you can locate the citation, you will find the name, address, and telephone number of the court to which you pay the fine. If you can't find it but you know it was issued by the State Patrol, contact the district court in the county where you received the citation (King, Snohomish, and Pierce Counties have several district courts).

If you received a citation from any other police agency or sheriff's department, contact them for more information.

Will I get pulled over for driving while texting or talking on a hand held device?

Yes, on June 10, 2010 these offenses were classified as primary offenses. That means law enforcement can take enforcement action if someone is texting while driving (RCW 46.61.668) or holding a cellular phone to their ear (RCW 46.61.667). The holder of an intermediate license may not operate a moving motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device unless the holder is using the device to report illegal activity, summon medical or other emergency help, or prevent injury to a person or property. (RCW 46.20.055 & RCW 46.20.075).

The initial law requiring hands-free devices was 2007 Senate Bill 5037, effective July 1, 2008. The intitial prohibition on text messaging was 2007 House Bill 1214, effective January 1, 2008. The law that became effective June 10, 2010 making both texting and the use of a cellular phone without a hands free device primary offences was the 2010 Senate Bill 6345.

Can you send me a copy of the radar operator's manual?

Copyright laws prohibit us from making copies of the radar manual, but it can be obtained from Kustom Signal Inc., 10975 El Monte, Overland Park, Kansas 66211.

Where do I get a permit to move an unlicensed vehicle?

Contact your local Department of Licensing office to obtain a three-day permit.

Is an out-of-state instruction permit valid in Washington State?

Yes, as long as you comply with Washington laws and there is a driver with five years of licensed driving experience seated next to the person with the instruction permit.

I was involved in an accident. Can I get a copy of the collision report?

For information on how to obtain a copy of the Police Traffic Collision Report. Please see our Collision Reports page.

Concealed Weapons & Reciprocity


Where can I get a concealed weapons permit?

The State Patrol does not handle applications, but you can go to the office of your local sheriff or chief of police for one. See RCW 9.41.070.

For additional questions or to obtain an application in advance, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing Web site at http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/firearms/index.html.

Does Washington recognize concealed weapons permits from other states?
In 2004 Washington’s Firearms and Dangerous Weapons statute (RCW 9.41) was amended to allow non-Washington residents to carry concealed weapons in Washington if they have obtained a concealed weapons permit from another state that meets certain conditions imposed by Washington’s law. For additional questions or to obtain information on this law and the states that Washington currently recognizes, please go to the Attorney General Web site at www.atg.wa.gov/page.aspx?ID=2334.

Additionally, Washington concealed pistol licenses will be recognized in the states listed on the Concealed License Permit Reciprocity list and well as possibly other states that do not require reciprocity. You will need to check the laws of the other state before traveling with your weapon.

NOTE: Handguns must be carried in accordance with the law of the state you are visiting. Be sure to check the laws of the other state before traveling there with your handgun.

Can active law enforcement officers from other states carry concealed weapons in Washington?
Yes, pursuant to RCW 9.41.060(1).

I travel a lot and have a concealed weapons permit from another state. How do I obtain a concealed weapons permit in your state?

It is possible to obtain a non-resident concealed weapons permit. This process usually takes 60 days to complete. Applications may only be made at a law enforcement agency in Washington State. For additional questions or to obtain an application in advance contact the Washington State Department of Licensing by visiting their Web site at http://www.dol.wa.gov/business/firearms/index.html.

What are considered Dangerous Weapons and what are the penalties for carrying one?

For information on these types of weapons and penalties for possession, please refer to RCW 9.41.

Additional State and Federal Resource Links For Further Information:

Department of Licensing Firearms Program
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) FAQs
ATF - Seattle Field Office Contact Number: (206) 389-6800

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Washington Laws & Codes


What can I do if a rock bounces up and breaks my windshield?

If it was dropped by a commercial vehicle, write down where you were, what time the incident happened, the direction the truck was traveling, a detailed description of the truck and driver (including company name, make of the truck, color, unit number, license plate number, etc.), and exactly what happened. You must be certain the rock or debris that broke your windshield was dropped by that particular truck. Contact the trucking company as soon as possible to file your complaint and claim.

This is a civil matter and must be resolved between you and the trucking company. Law enforcement can only take enforcement action if an officer personally witnesses the truck dropping rocks or debris. If the object was dropped by a privately owned vehicle, it is not a law enforcement issue. Law enforcement must witness the event in its entirety to take any sort of action. It is a civil issue and will need to be handled through your insurance company. Please also visit our Load Loss & Securement page for further information regarding load securement requirements and how to report violations.

What are the DUI laws and fines in Washington?

The .08% blood alcohol took effect January 1, 1999. See the Washington Traffic Safety Commission's Impaired Driving site.

Where can I find Washington's laws and codes on the Internet?

For specific laws that people often request from the State Patrol, check the Washington State legislative Web site www.leg.wa.gov and look under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) or Washington Administrative Code (WAC.). If you do not find what you need, Access Washington maintains a Web page with links to laws, codes and a search feature. You may wish to explore the information they provide.

How can I find specific information on the Washington State Seatbelt Laws?

For more information on the law, see RCW 46.61.687 and RCW 46.61.688.

What is the fine for improper use or failure to wear a seat belt or child safety restraint device?

The fine is $124.

Can I be issued a (Notice of Infraction) ticket for no seat belt if a person in my car is over 16?

No. The driver of a vehicle is only responsible for ensuring all persons 15 and under are properly secured in a seat belt or other safety restraint device as required by law. All persons age 16 and over may be issued a separate Notice of Infraction.

I have an older vehicle. Is it required to have a seat belt?

  • Every vehicle manufactured or assembled after January 1, 1965, shall be equipped with at least two lap-type safety belt assemblies for use in the front seating positions.
  • Every passenger car manufactured or assembled after January 1, 1968, shall be equipped with a lap-type safety belt assembly for each permanent passenger seating position.
  • Every passenger car manufactured or assembled after January 1, 1968, shall be equipped with at least two shoulder harness-type safety belt assemblies for use in the front seating positions.
  • Rule of thumb: If your vehicle was originally equipped with safety belts, they must be in good working order and must be used.

Do persons in a camper or motor home have to wear safety belts?

Persons in the driving compartment must use proper restraints. Persons in the living area should use restraints if there are restraints available.

If my seat belt has a separate lap and shoulder belt, do I have to use both?

Yes.

Does a Notice of Infraction for violation of the seat belt law go on my driving record?

Yes, but it is not made available to insurance companies. This violation is like any other Notice of Infraction. If it is not taken care of properly, your license will be suspended for fail to appear.

Are there any exemptions to the seat belt law?

Yes, a driver or passenger who possesses written verification from a licensed physician that the driver or passenger is unable to wear a safety belt for physical or medical reasons does not have to wear the safety belt.

I have a child who is one year old but is less than twenty pounds. Does the child need to remain in a rear-facing infant seat?

Washington law (RCW 46.67.687) states the child must be secured in accordance with instructions of the vehicle manufacturer and child restraint manufacturer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends rear facing car safety seats for most infants up to 2 years of age.

I have a child who is more than 1 year old but less than 4 years old and weighs less than 40 pounds but more than 20. How should I secure my child in the vehicle?

Washington law (RCW 46.67.687) requires they be secured in accordance with instructions of the vehicle manufacturer and child restraint manufacturer. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the child be kept in the convertible seat as long as they fall within the height/weight recommendations for the seat.

When should I use a booster seat?

Washington law requires a child who is less than 8 years of age or 4'9" tall (which ever comes first) be properly restrained in a child booster seat when both lap and shoulder belts are available. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends booster seats, used in conjunction with lap/shoulder belts, be used until the child is 8 years old unless the child is 4'9".

If you answer "NO" to any of the following questions, your child is safer in a booster seat:

  1. Do the child's knees bend comfortably at the edge of the auto seat?
  2. Does the child sit with hips all the way back against the auto seat?
  3. Is the lap belt on the top part of the thighs?
  4. Is the shoulder belt centered on the shoulder and chest?
  5. Can the child stay seated like this for the whole trip?

Are children under the age of 13 required to ride in the back seat?

Yes, the driver of a vehicle transporting a child who is under thirteen years old shall transport the child in the back seat positions in the vehicle where it is practical to do so. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, children under 12 are safer in the back seat regardless of the presence of a passenger side air bag.

Should I use age or weight to determine the safest way to restrain my child?

Most experts agree that size is more important than age.

I am too large for my seat belt. What can I do?

Seat belt extenders are available for most domestic vehicles for a fee. Take the information on the seat belt label along with your vehicle to the parts department of your local dealer. Extenders are not interchangeable, so go to the dealer for your particular vehicle. If you have trouble getting service from the dealer, try another dealer or call the customer assistance number listed in your owner's manual. Check your owner's manual for an explanation of these seat belt systems.

Why aren't school buses required to have seat belts?

See the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration web site for the answer to this question.

If a person is sitting in a ferry line in their car waiting for a ferry will they be ticketed for not wearing a seat belt?

No, they will not be ticketed.

When did the primary offense enforcement of the seat belt law and child passenger restraint law go into effect?

  • June 13, 2002 - Primary enforcement law
  • July 1, 2002 - Child passenger restraint law

For more information on the law, see RCW 46.61.687 and RCW 46.61.688.

Other miscellaneous information:

  • One person per belt.
  • Keep lap belts low and snug across the thighs.
  • Do not place the shoulder portion of the seat belt behind your back or under the arm. This prevents the seat belt from working properly.
  • Always use a seat belt, even if you have an air bag.
  • Always replace a child's car seat if it has been involved in a collision.
  • Child safety seats are found to reduce fatal injuries by 71% for infants (less than 1 year of age) and 54% for toddlers in passenger cars.
  • Using lap and shoulder belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to occupants in the front seat of passenger cars by 45% and moderate to critical injuries by 50%.

For more information about child safety restraints, child seat clinics, seat belts, and air bags, you can contact the following organizations:

How do I report School Bus Crossing Guard Violations?

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