May 01

Jon Zimmerman

Severe Penalties For Traffic Tickets Punish Teenage Drivers

by Jon Zimmerman

When a driver gets pulled over in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, or some other location and a police officer cites the driver for a traffic ticket, whether it be for speeding, negligent driving in the second degree, failure to yield, or some other type of traffic offense, paying or mitigating the ticket can have a detrimental effect on the driver’s insurance while leaving a mark on the driving history.  Too many marks on the history can mean a suspension and, in some cases, a revocation of the driver’s license.  But for intermediate driver license holders—those teenage drivers who are 16 or 17—as well as permit holders who are age 15, the consequences of paying or mitigating a ticket are much more severe and add up more quickly.  

In the State of Washington, drivers who are under the age of 18 operate vehicles under special rules.  While these rules are designed to protect the public safety, the rules also have much more dire penalties for young drivers, as well as their parents.  For parents, the penalties for a child’s violation of these rules are mostly financial, with increased insurance premiums.  

Let’s look at a few of the rules and the penalties for violating IDL restrictions.  For the first six months of driving or until an intermediate driver license (IDL) holder turns 18, whichever occurs first, a driver under the age of 18 is prohibited from operating a motor vehicle with passengers under the age of 20 who are not immediate family members.  After the first six months of driving, the restriction turns from zero non-immediate family members to up to three non-immediate family members.  After the first 12 months of driving, the restriction on passengers is lifted provided that the driver has not been in an accident (whether involving one vehicle or more than one vehicle) and has not been convicted of a traffic offense under RCW 46.61.   

The IDL driver cannot drive between 1 A.M. and 5 A.M. unless with a parent, guardian, or licensed driver aged 25 or older. The IDL driver may not use a cell phone while driving except under very narrowly-defined exceptions. 

So what are the penalties for violating the IDL restrictions?  First, violating the restrictions in RCW 46.20.075, the IDL statute, are traffic infractions under RCW 46.20.267. These violations are in addition to any other potential violations, and include seat-belt tickets, texting tickets, speeding tickets, and other types of violations under RCW 46.61. 

Furthermore, on the first such conviction, the IDL driver’s parent or guardian will be sent a warning letter by the Washington Department of Licensing.  On the second conviction, the driver faces a suspension of the driver’s license for six months, unless the driver turns 18 first.  Finally, upon the third conviction, the driver’s license is suspended until the age of 18, no matter how long the suspension.  It could be 3 months, it could be as long as 22 months just for the IDL restriction and notwithstanding any other type of suspension or revocation.   

In addition to having a tarnished driving record, the driver and his or her parents face much higher insurance premiums.  If you are an intermediate driver and you have received a traffic ticket, or you are the parent of an intermediate driver who just got a ticket, an attorney experienced in fighting traffic offenses can help.  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you must pay the ticket; seek legal assistance immediately and keep the driving record clean and your insurance premiums low.   


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