Washington Model Traffic Ordinance

Update:

This story comes from seattlepi.com (by KOMO-TV)

Sometimes governments are so quick to pass laws and to enforce them, that their overzealous behaviour ignores to adhere to the very laws that they seek to implement.

Recently it was discovered that laws that were being enforced were not yet written in the Washington Model Traffic Ordinance and therefore were deemed invalid, despite the facts that authorities issued thousands of tickets and that fines, associated with the alleged offences, were paid by motorists who believed that the laws they were accused of violating were actually on the books.

Nearly all Washington cities reference the DOL’s rule book (also known as the Washington Model Traffic Ordinance ) for writing tickets. But the rule book hasn’t been updated since 2004. So any laws enacted since then, such as the cell phone law (talking and texting while driving), aren’t included. The laws are either incorrect or they are not even on the books.

By last Friday, the Licensing Department confirmed that the error encompasses the new cell phone law, the texting law, off-road driving restrictions added in 2008 and a few other traffic laws – including one that requires car speakers to be secured properly.

Roughly 3,000 tickets – mostly for cell phone use and off-roading violations – will likely be invalidated across the state because of an error at the Department of Licensing headquarters in Olympia, officials said.

Now officials are saying the refunds could total up to $450,000 statewide.

This problem doesn’t impact tickets written by the Washington State Patrol because it has its own rule book.

Seattle is not affected by this flaw in the law, as it  doesn’t subscribe to the rule book, officially called the Model Traffic Ordinance, but nearly every other municipality in the State of Washington does.

By Friday, the Licensing Department confirmed that the error encompasses the new cell phone law, the texting law, off-road driving restrictions added in 2008 and a few other traffic laws – including one that requires car speakers to be secured properly.

So all of those cities soon could be required to refund any fines levied for those violations.

About 1,700 invalid tickets have been issued for cell phone use and roughly 1,300 for off-road vehicle violations such as off-roading in a restricted area or lack of proper off-road permits.

A handful of invalid tickets also have been issued for other violations enacted since 2004 but not included in the rule book, such as unsecured car speakers.

The city of Bremerton has already dismissed 84 cell phone tickets. It is also refunding any fines already paid for the tickets, which range from $124 to $176.

Olympia also may dismiss more than 105 tickets and give refunds to the drivers who paid fines. And it’s checking to see whether the total may end up being higher.

In a letter from the Licensing Department, cities are being told to decide whether they will contact drivers with invalid tickets or wait for drivers to contact them. Then DOL is telling cities it will reimburse them for refunds.

It is estimated the refunds will cost Licensing Department between $300,000 and $450,000, as the number of 3,000 invalid tickets is strictly an estimate.

Since this embarrassing situation was discovered, the Licensing Department has now updated its rule book.

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