Apr 22

Jon Zimmerman

Car Thieves Get Free Pass As Washington State Patrol Tickets Annoying Drivers

by Jon Zimmerman


Next time you’re driving and see troopers with the Washington State Patrol pulling over drivers on the side of I-5 and I-90, ask yourself: does it seem like there are more police on the road these days, issuing tickets for moving violations? 

The truth is that while state revenue has been declining and budgets for police services are declining, police officers around the country find that getting in the “business” of code citations and traffic tickets is a lot easier and more revenue friendly than fighting crime.  And it’s true right here in the State of Washington as troopers put a higher emphasis on what they deem “annoying” versus criminal offenses.  

Don’t believe me?  Fifth generation Washington native Amy Rolph, writing on Seattle’s Big Blog at seattlepi.com, had a great article over the weekend about drivers ticketed for left-lane violations.  You can even watch a great video (part of the “Good to Know” series with your tax dollars at work!), courtesy of the WSP, in which Trooper J.J. Gundermann tells us that driving in the far left lane “is annoying” and as such, troopers routinely issue traffic tickets for violations of RCW 46.61.100.  In the video, Trooper Gundermann acts like a teacher, explaining the law to the driver and not issuing the driver a ticket.  In real life, however, troopers are not teachers and troopers rarely give warnings in lieu of tickets.  

Also annoying, but completely ignored by the State Patrol (not only in the video but in real life), are car thefts.  Car thefts are irritating, they cause thousands of dollars in property loss and lost wages, and car thefts are criminal acts.  But a KIRO 97.3 FM investigation discovered that the Washington State Patrol, in its response to a budget cut, dismantled its car theft investigative task force and (drumroll please) reassigned more than a dozen troopers.  The WSP is more interested issuing tickets to drivers who hog the left lane than in recovering your stolen car.  This is the new, profit-driven priority to police work.  The WSP apparently thinks that the civil offense of driving in the left lane is more of an offense against a person than stealing one's car.  

A few lessons can be learned from this experience.  First, car thieves will need to be more careful about driving past troopers who are looking to hand out traffic tickets like candy.  Second, drivers who have their cars stolen are SOL with the WSP, which provides an incentive to car theft rings by giving thieves a free pass.  While you might fall victim to a car thief, good luck trying to get the WSP to care about your stolen car.  Your chances of getting a traffic ticket by the Washington State Patrol are much, much greater than getting the WSP to care about helping you get back your stolen car.  Third, the roads have not become more dangerous and the risks to public safety are not any higher (and in fact are probably lower) than five years ago.  The real threat to your wallet’s safety.  Know that the WSP, in an unhindered, unfettered, and unabashed fashion, wholly supports your getting a ticket, your paying money to the state, and your paying higher insurance rates.  Don’t let it happen.  If you are the unlucky recipient of a traffic ticket, whether it be in Olympia or Everett, Seattle or Tacoma, make sure you know your rights when the police hand you a ticket and demand your cash. 





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