April Flowers, More Speeding Tickets
As temperatures rise in April and May and cities across the State of Washington—especially in western Washington—see more sunny days, drivers will also see more police cars, filled with police officers bent on enforcing the traffic laws and writing people speeding tickets. It’s common to see more police on city streets, bridges, and freeways this time of year. Reasons include federal and state grants that give overtime to the police for issuing traffic citations; better weather (who wants to pull people over and stand outside in the wind and rain?); people driving faster in nicer weather (people often tend to slow down during inclement weather), and local and state governments’ desire to bring in revenue. But what does this mean to the ordinary driver? Below are some common occurrences around this time of year and how to think about or deel with some of these issues.
- School zone speeding tickets. Citations for these offenses have been increasing because of the use of traffic cameras, but nicer weather also means that police will be outside of schools waiting to pull over drivers. There is good and bad news here. The good news is that in the State of Washington, traffic camera tickets do not get placed on a driver’s record and do not affect a driver’s insurance; however, this is only true for school zone tickets where evidence of speed is gathered by use of an automated camera. The bad news it that for a school zone ticket issued by a police officer, it’s a serious moving violation that can go on a driver’s record for three years if the driver just pays the ticket. While a driver has a “mitigation” option on most tickets—which ordinarily is a bad option on to begin with on officer-issued citations because it’s really akin to paying the ticket as far as one’s driving record and insurance is concerned—it’s not even an option for school zone tickets (but drivers do not know this when pulled over because all infraction tickets include the mitigation option). The reason mitigation is not available is that the Legislature does not allow judges to lower fines for school zone tickets. Lower fines do not mean that the ticket stays off a driver’s record; nevertheless, judges can’t even lower a school zone fine if they wanted to. Judges can dismiss a ticket with a good defense, and get rid of the fine that way, but drivers need to be smart enough to choose the contested hearing option and it is recommended that drivers seek legal counsel for non-camera offenses.
- Tickets issued to intermediate driver license holders. Permit holders and drivers age 16 and 17 are known as intermediate drivers. Penalties for violating traffic laws are more stringent for these drivers and police are always on the lookout for young drivers. Longer days (which make all drivers more visible) with more police on the road mean that young drivers have to be especially careful.
- Emphasis patrols. Ever see a string of police officers pulling people over in downtown Seattle or on I-5 near Everett? Welcome to the emphasis patrol. Sometimes the police are enforcing seat belt laws, sometimes speed laws, sometimes something else. Know that at this time of year, the police are taking extra time to issue traffic tickets.
With these tips in mind, I hope this post helps you avoid a ticket. If you are unfortunate and get a traffic ticket from a police officer, feel free to give my office a call.