For any driver trying to navigate the automotive system in Washington, things can get a little hairy. With the different regulations about insurance, registration, licensing and even drunk driving, it’s easy to see why so many drivers may be ill-informed of their rights and responsibilities. But, with a little effort, any driver can become the most knowledgeable consumer.
In Washington, there are minimum insurance requirement for all drivers. In order to operate a motor vehicle, a driver must purchase at least $25,000 worth of coverage for bodily injury or death per person per accident, $50,000 for two or more people, and $10,000 for property damage.
Drivers must also carry with them official proof of insurance. Insurance cards should list the driver’s name, policy number, effective dates, name of the insurance company and year, make and model of the vehicle. If you are caught without your card, you could face fines and penalties. If you are caught driving without any insurance, there is a mandatory fine of at least $450. If a driver gave a police officer false insurance information to avoid that fine, he could be hit with something even worse: a misdemeanor charge.
When it comes to auto accidents, Washington follows the Tort system. This means that if you do find yourself involved in an accident, either you or another driver must be found at fault. The at-fault driver is responsible for compensating all parties for any injuries, death or damage to vehicles and other property. Claims and compensation are handled through the offending party’s insurance company, which is why it is so important to have auto insurance in Washington. Because it is a Tort state, most companies recommend drivers purchase more than the minimum requirements.
Although the cost of insurance can run the gamut of costs depending on things like credit history, gender or location, Washingtonians in general enjoy good rates for car insurance. At approximately $839 for a year of insurance, the cost hovers right around the national average of $817 a year.
Washington takes its insurance regulations seriously, but it considers drunk driving even more deeply because of the grave consequences. You can be considered driving under the influence in the state when using alcohol, any number of illicit drugs, and even prescription medications. Like many other states, Washington operates under an implied consent law, meaning that if you drive a vehicle on any road in the state you are consenting to a chemical test to determine if you are under the influence.
The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit for the state is .08%. The penalties become even more harsh with a BAC over .15%. For minors, the BAC limit is .02%. If you are caught driving under the influence, your license will be immediately suspended pending your trial.
A conviction for a first time offender can carry with it a jail sentence anywhere from one month to one year, and a minimum fine of $350 that could go up to $5,000. All DUI convictions require the installation of an interlock system at the driver’s expense. An interlock is a device that is installed in the ignition that can detect the presence of alcohol in a driver. If it detects alcohol, it will prevent the car from starting and report the finding to the authorities, resulting in even more penalties.
Two thirds of all teen deaths in the state are caused by car crashes, and so in an effort to reduce the number of deaths and train safer drivers, Washington has employed its own version of the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) system. Under the system, a teen must be at least 15 ½ years of age to obtain a learner’s permit. During the minimum six months of the learner’s permit phase, a teen must complete at least 50 hours of practice driving with a parent or guardian, ten hours of which must be at night. After six months, a teen can apply to take the driver’s road test and upon passing, he will be rewarded with his intermediate license. If a teen does not violate any restrictions, such a driving with other teenage passenger for the first six months or driving between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. during the first year, he will be rewarded with an unrestricted license.
Washington Auto Insurance – minimum coverage requirements, average monthly premiums, info on recent rate trends, and more.
Washington DUI Laws – info on Blood Alcohol Content restrictions, penalties and fines, and more.