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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Driving errors can be costly

Driver blunders and resulting vehicle crashes account for property damage and tragic loss of life every day.  Other times, drivers making errors escape those accidents only to be caught by law enforcement — that’ll likely cost them in the pocket book.

I strive to drive well, but still make occasional driving errors.  If I do something stupid, like turn onto a one-way street going the wrong direction, I do several things.  First, after getting out of harm’s way, I give thanks for the absence of a wreck.  Second, I hope the cops didn’t spot me.  And finally, I reprimand myself for my failure, learn from it and make a conscious effort not to repeat the faux pas.

The reason (besides avoiding embarrassment) that I don’t want to be spotted by a cop is the high cost of traffic tickets.  Fines for failures are set by the state Supreme Court and no infraction can be considered cheap.

Beside the base penalties set by the court, Washington’s legislature also tacks on statutory assessments.  For example, the fine for an improper turn at an intersection carries a base penalty of $48.  When various statutory amounts are tallied, though, the total fine comes to $136.  And remember, any infraction taking place in a designated school or construction zone is doubled.  Further, no school or construction violation may be waived, suspended or reduced by any entity. Extra funds generated through this program are used for enhancing student and worker safety in these vulnerable zones.

A schedule of fines is listed on Washington State document IRLJ 6.2, showing base penalties to be levied by courts for infractions. And as I mentioned, added statutory assessments can nearly triple these published amounts.  Total penalties for various infractions range from $136 to over $1000.

Washington’s hand-held cell phone talking and texting ban, like many basic infractions, carries a fine of $136 with statutory add-ons; likewise for common mistakes like not signaling, following too closely, impeding traffic or going too fast for conditions.

Although many citations result in the $136 amount, many others will “break the bank.”  Do you pull to the right and stop as an emergency vehicle approaches?  That’s specified by law when a police cruiser, fire truck or ambulance is approaching from your front or back displaying its lights and/or sounding its siren.  I’m not sure what the total is after statutory additions, but Washington’s base penalty for that is over $500!  Pulling over is much cheaper.

Other rather spendy transgressions are:  negligent driving, $1000 and 90 days in jail; no valid license, $250; no proof of insurance, about $600; wrong way on freeway, $200.  These large amounts should be substantial deterrents — they are set to garner attention and induce compliance.

But please remember that driving errors often cost something more precious than money: lives!

Regardless of amount, paying traffic fines is only the beginning of potential monetary costs.  In many cases (like DUI offenses) you will incur attorney fees that far exceed the infraction fine.  Along with that, increased insurance fees are assured as your driving record deteriorates.  Most states also employ a points system, wherein too many accumulated points from traffic citations results in license suspension.

Always afford full attention to your driving effort and strive to eliminate errors.  That’s the best way to avoid expensive tickets, loss of license or potential accidents caused by sloppy driving.

Readers may contact Bill Love via e-mail at