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Vehicle & Driver · Passenger Vehicle FAQs

Drivers Licenses

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

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) enforces 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, business license, commercial drivers license, or motorcycle endorsements, please visit or call DOL at (360) 902-3900 for driver's license information or (360) 902-3770 for vehicle license information. The main number for DOL is (360) 902-3600.

Headsets & Earphones

Can I wear earphones/headset while driving?

No. (RCW 46.37.480)

Is use of a hands free wireless listening device permitted?

Yes, provided the device covers only one ear. (WAC 204-10-045)

License Plates

Is a front license plate required?

Yes, for those vehicles issued a front plate. The license plate must be affixed to the front of the vehicle and kept clean so as to be plainly seen and read at all times. (RCW 46.16A.200)

Are neon license plate lamps permitted?

No, the rear license plate must be illuminated by a white light. (RCW 46.37.050 & WAC 204-21-230)

Are license plate covers permitted?

It is unlawful to use any holders, frames, or any materials that in any manner change, alter, or make the vehicle license number plates illegible. (RCW 46.16A.200) Tinted and non-tinted covers can alter the appearance of or the reflectivity of the plate and make it unreadable or reduce the reflectivity.

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What is a moped?

A moped is a two or three wheeled motorized (electric or liquid fuel) device with a cylinder displacement not exceeding fifty cubic centimeters and produces not more than two gross brake horsepower. The device may not be capable of exceeding thirty miles per hour on level ground. Pedals and sixteen-inch or larger diameter wheels are not required, provided the device and all equipment was originally manufactured for public road use. (RCW 46.04.304) Mopeds are required to have two mirrors, horn, brakes on all wheels, speedometer/odometer, head light, tail light, brake light, license plate light, turn signals (if originally equipped), license plate lamp, red reflector to the rear, and the operator and any passenger are required to wear a helmet meeting requirements outlined in RCW 46.37.530.

What if my moped exceeds 30 mph or 50cc's?

It would be classified as a motorcycle (RCW 46.04.330). The operator of a motorcycle must have a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the Department of Licensing enabling the holder to drive such vehicles. (RCW 46.20.500)

Do I need a driver's license to operate a moped?

Yes, any vehicle licensed for public road use requires a licensed operator.


Am I required to wear a helmet when operating a motorcycle?

Yes, operators and passengers must wear a helmet meeting the requirements outlined in RCW 46.37.530.

Is there a minimum age for transporting a passenger on a motorcycle?

Yes, it is five. (RCW 46.37.530)

Can I use a plastic gas tank on my motorcycle?

The gas tank must be approved specifically for use on public roadways. Check with the manufacturer or retail establishment for the intended use of the tank. If its intended use if for off-road only, it is not legal for use on public roadways.

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Scooters & EPAMD

What is the definition of a motorized scooter which is legal to use in Washington State?

An "electric personal assistive mobility device" (EPAMD) means a self-balancing device with two wheels not in tandem, designed to transport only one person by an electric propulsion system with an average power of seven hundred fifty watts (one horsepower) having a maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such propulsion while ridden by an operator weighing one hundred seventy pounds, or less than twenty miles per hour. (RCW 46.04.1695)

A "motorized foot scooter" means a device with no more than 2 ten-inch or smaller diameter wheels, 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. (RCW 46.04.336)

Are the EPAMD and motorized foot scooters considered a vehicle?

No. (RCW 46.04.320)

Do I need a driver's license to operate an EPAMD or motorized foot scooter?

No. (RCW 46.20.500)

Where can I operate my EPAMD or motorized foot scooter?

It is unlawful to operate an EPAMD on a fully controlled limited access highway; however, an EPAMD can be ridden on sidewalks. (RCW 46.61.710)

Motorized foot scooters may not be operated at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise. They may be operated most places bicycles are allowed such as multipurpose trails or bicycle lanes, provided "motorized vehicles" are not prohibited. (RCW 46.61.710)

Who regulates the use of an EPAMD or motorized foot scooter?

A municipality and the Department of Transportation may prohibit the operation of an EPAMD on public highways within their respective jurisdictions where the speed limit is greater than 25 miles per hour.

A municipality may restrict the speed of an EPAMD in locations with congested pedestrian or non-motorized traffic and where there is significant speed differential between pedestrians and EPAMD operators. The areas in this subsection must be designated by the city engineer or designee of the municipality. Municipalities shall not restrict the speed of an EPAMD in the entire community or in areas in which there is infrequent pedestrian traffic.

A state agency or local government or municipalities may regulate the operation of an EPAMD and motorized foot scooter within the boundaries under their jurisdiction and control, including any area used for recreation, open space, habitat, trails, or conservation purposes. (RCW 46.61.710)

Can the EPAMD and motorized foot scooter be ridden on bike paths?

Yes, provided there are not signs posted prohibiting the use of motorized vehicles.

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Steering Wheels

Can a smaller steering wheel be installed?

Yes, provided it is not less than 12 inches, has a continuous rim, and is constructed and maintained so that no components or attachments, including the horn activating mechanism and trim hardware, can catch the driver's clothing or jewelry during normal driving maneuvers. If vehicle was originally equipped with a driver's side air bag, it along with the horn must also remain intact. (RCW 46.37.375 & WAC 204-10-034)

Vehicle Inspections

Where do I go for a vehicle inspection?

Visit our VIN page for inspection information and locations.

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Vehicle Lights

Are high intensity discharge (HID) conversion kits legal?

No, in order for a headlight to be legal for use in Washington State, it must conform to the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) 108 requirements for headlights. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has concluded that it is impossible to produce HID conversion kits (converting a halogen system to HID) that would be compliant with FMVSS 108.

Halogen equipment uses an electrical current to heat a metal wire coil filament to incandescence, while the HID conversion kit's light source incorporates a discharge arc to produce light. HIDs require a ballast for operation. Under FMVSS 108 Section S7.7 (replacement light sources), each replaceable light source for headlamps must be designed to conform to the dimensions and electrical specifications for the headlamp source it is intended to replace. For example, if an HID kit is marketed as replacing an H1 light source, then it must match the H1's wire coil filament size and location, the electrical connector size and location, and the ballast design for use with an H1 light source (which is impossible since there is no ballast).

NHTSA believes this equipment presents a safety risk to the public since the kits can be expected to produce excessive glare to oncoming motorists. In one investigation, NHTSA found that an HID conversion headlamp exceeded the maximum candlepower by over 800 percent.

Are turn signal, taillight or headlamp covers permitted?

No. An aftermarket style ornament or other feature such as tinted plastic glass covers, a grille or allotted covers must not be placed in front of the headlamp lens, or in front of any other lighting devices installed on motor vehicles. (WAC 204-21-230)

Are clear tail lamp lenses permitted?

No. Washington has adopted the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 108 for all aftermarket lighting equipment. FMVSS 108 is very specific for tail/brake light lenses as well as front side marker light lenses. Most clear aftermarket lighting lack the required reflex reflectors and side marker lights. Using "red" bulbs in clear lenses is not acceptable as it does not meet FMVSS 108. All aftermarket lighting must have the same functionality as those originally installed.

Are blue or purple dot inserts in taillights permitted?

They are only permitted on vehicles forty or more years old or on any motorcycle regardless of age, the blue or purple insert may not be more than one inch in diameter. (RCW 46.37.100)

Are colored headlight bulbs permitted?

No, all headlamp bulbs must be white in color as defined by Society of Automotive Engineers and FMVSS 108. FMVSS 108 disallows any color coating on headlights and or headlight bulbs.

Windshield Wipers

Is one windshield wiper permitted?

If the vehicle was originally equipped from the manufacturer with one wiper it is permitted. All other vehicles must be equipped with a device for cleaning rain, snow, or other moisture from the windshield capable of cleaning the windshield over two separate arcs, one each on the left and right side of the windshield. Wipers must be maintained in good working order. (RCW 46.37.410)


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