How did Washington State’s traffic policies rate?

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In an attempt to prevent car accident-related injuries and deaths, the Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) developed a number of recommendations and best practices that they urge individual states to follow. They based these recommendations on scientific studies into the most effective methods of crash prevention.

Taking it one step further, they also developed a rating system that allows residents to see how their state measures up with a quick glance. A rating of green means the state’s laws meet the recommendation, a yellow rating means they are close but do not meet all aspects of it, and a red means the state has a lot room for improvement in this area. Here is how Washington State ranks on these traffic policy issues:

Seatbelt Laws

Washington has primary enforcement seatbelt laws for all seats, meaning police can stop a car because someone inside is not wearing one. This matches the policy recommendation from CPSTF and NHTSA, earning Washington State a green rating in this category.

Child Seat Laws

Washington State child seat laws require all children ages seven or below to ride in an approved car seat or booster seat. The CPSTF and NHTSA recommendation calls for child seat laws that apply through age eight or above. CPSTF and NHTSA, believing our state could use a little work in this category, awarded us a yellow rating.

Learner’s Permit Age

Teenagers can get a learner’s permit in Washington on their 15th birthday or after, allowing them to begin driving with adult supervision. Because CPSTF and NHTSA recommend we restrict learner’s permits to anyone under age 16, we earned a yellow rating.

Learner’s Permit Holding Period

Young drivers must hold a learner’s permit for at least six months before testing for a driver’s license in Washington State. CPSTF and NHTSA call for a 12-month hold period as a part of their recommended graduated drivers licensing system. Washington earns a yellow rating in this category.

Young Drivers: Nighttime Driving Restrictions

Young drivers who hold a Washington State intermediate or provisional license cannot drive between the hours of 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless their reason for the trip meets one of the exceptions, such as driving to or from a school function. The CPSTF and NHTSA-recommended graduated drivers licensing system calls for restrictions on driving between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., or longer. We landed in the red on this one.

Young Drivers: Young Passenger Restriction

Washington drivers who hold an intermediate or provisional license cannot legally transport young passengers without adult supervision. The CPSTF and NHTSA recommend that state policies limit young passengers to one, as a part of their proposed graduated drivers licensing system. The adult supervision requirement earned Washington State a green rating in this category.

Minimum Age for an Unrestricted License

Washington State lifts any young driver restrictions — including those against nighttime driving and carrying young passengers — at age 17. As the final component of the CPSTF and NHTSA graduated drivers licensing system, these organizations recommend that restrictions remain in place until young drivers reach age 18. This earned Washington a yellow rating.

Ignition Interlock Devices for Alcohol-related Convictions

Washington State law requires all drivers who receive a conviction for alcohol-impaired driving have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. This device prevents starting the vehicle unless the driver first proves he is sober. This policy meets the CPSTF and NHTSA recommendation, earning the state a green rating.

What does this mean about Washington State’s driving safety?

All in all, our state did not do too badly. Our policies could use some work, but together, we can work to make Washington State a safer place to drive. For more articles on driving safety, check out our blog and library.

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Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.