Contested Hearing Confusion

What to Expect at a Contested Hearing for a Traffic Ticket

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As we continue in our series focusing on the various ways you can respond to a traffic ticket in Washington state, we wanted to address some common questions related to choosing a contested hearing for a traffic ticket. If you decide to fight your infraction there can be a lot of things to consider, and the process can often be a bit confusing, especially if you are not familiar with general court procedures. Take a look at some of our recommendations and responses to frequently asked questions related to a contested hearing for your traffic ticket below.

What is a contested hearing for a traffic ticket?

First things first, what is a contested hearing and what does that mean? If you choose to challenge the traffic infraction you were cited for, you are choosing to fight the charges, and you are trying to prove to the court that you were not guilty of committing the infraction as it was charged. Selecting a contested hearing is the way to go if you are trying to keep the infraction from becoming part of your driving record or driving abstract and also subsequently affecting your insurance rates.

As we mentioned in our previous post, choosing a mitigation hearing does not provide the correct hearing for you to contest or fight the ticket. If you select a mitigation hearing, you agree that you committed the infraction, but you are requesting an opportunity to explain the circumstances to the court. Only a contested hearing will provide the proper setting for you to fight against the charges you were cited for in a traffic infraction.

I sent in my ticket requesting a contested hearing, now what?

After you send the ticket to request a contested hearing, the court will schedule a hearing date. Every court is different regarding how quickly they will schedule the hearing for your case. Some courts such as Pierce County District Court will schedule your hearing very quickly – typically within 30-45 days. However, other courts such as Thurston County District Court often schedule court hearings at a much slower rate – usually within 90 days.

It is important to note that you are entitled to a speedy trial, which means that the court is required to set your hearing within 120 days of the infraction. This is required by IRLJ 2.6(a)(1) The court will mail a notice of the hearing date to you at the address you wrote on the ticket when you mailed into them, so keep an eye out for it. You do not want to miss your court hearing date!

I received my Court date back in the mail, but I can’t make it. Can I reschedule?

Yes, it is usually possible to request a one-time continuance of the court hearing date. Most courts are willing to reschedule the date if you ask them within a reasonable time frame. You can call, go to the court, or mail a request to get a new date. We suggest requesting a new court date as soon as you find out you are unavailable. If you wait until the last minute such as the day of the hearing, it is possible that your request will not be granted.

Some courts such as Seattle Municipal Court require that a request is made at least two weeks before the hearing date. The earlier you can contact the court to request a new date, the better! Typically, most courts will only allow a continuance of the hearing date one time. If you have to continuously request a new hearing date more than once, the court may choose not to accommodate your requests.

What happens if I miss my scheduled court date?

If you miss your scheduled court date the court will impose some additional consequences. First, most courts will add a late fee of $52 to your ticket fine. Second, the infraction will be found committed. Third, the court will issue an FTA/FTR, which stands for Failure to Appear/Failure to Respond. When an FTA/FTR is issued, the court sends a notification to the Department of Licensing and a process to suspend the driver’s license will be started.

Also, if the FTA/FTR is not addressed within a few days of the missed court hearing, the court will also send the balance due (the ticket fine + the late fee) to collections. The Department of Licensing will send a letter to the address that you have registered with them (typically the address that is listed on your driver’s license, unless you have updated it) informing you of the date of the pending license suspension. Usually, the pending license suspension date with be 30-60 days from the date of the missed court hearing.

What should I wear to my hearing?

You want to dress in professional attire when attending your court hearing. For men, a suit or dress slacks and a nice, clean button down shirt with a tie is a good choice. For women, business professional or business casual attire is preferred. If you do not have a suit or business casual attire that is okay but try to avoid wearing shorts, jeans, tank tops, or clothing with logos or graphics. A plain shirt and dress pants is a good choice for men or women if you do not have a suit to wear to court.

What will happen when I arrive for my hearing?

When you arrive, you will enter the courtroom with all other defendants that are scheduled on the docket (legal word for calendar) that day. All hearings for that particular courtroom and judge are scheduled for the same time, and the judge calls each case in the order he/she sees fit. That means that if your hearing is scheduled for 9:00 AM you may not be called at 9:00 AM. It just depends on where you fall in the order of the docket.

Typically, the judge or the judicial assistant present will do a roll call before any cases are heard. When your name is called simply indicate that you are present so the court can make a note of that. When the judge calls your case you will make your way to the front of the courtroom. If you are not the first case called, you will have to wait in the courtroom until the judge calls your name.

If the docket is short on the day or your hearing, you may not have to wait long. However, if there are a large number of cases on the docket, you may have to wait quite a while. Some of the smaller municipal courts tend to only host hearings on 1 or 2 days of the month, so there may be a large number of cases to address that day. Be prepared to wait for your turn – it is unlikely that you will be in and out of court within an hour or less. Plan the rest of your day’s schedule accordingly, so you are not rushed.

Will the officer be there?

Unless the prosecutor or you have specifically requested that the officer be present at the hearing by issuing a subpoena, it is unlikely that he/she will be there. If you would like the officer to be present at the hearing, an official subpoena must be issued to him/her at least seven days in advance of the hearing. In some cases, the prosecutor may choose to subpoena the officer without notifying you. This is usually because it will benefit their side of the argument in court. However, for most minor infractions with no extenuating circumstances, it is unlikely that the officer will be present.

If the officer does not show do I get my ticket dismissed?

This is something that a lot of people often get confused about. There are two possible scenarios here, and with one of them, yes, there is a good chance that your ticket will be dismissed. If you properly subpoena the officer and he/she does not attend the hearing, AND he/she does not have a reasonable excuse for not making it, then your case can be dismissed with a proper request to the court. Determining whether or not the officer’s excuse for missing the hearing is reasonable is up to the judge. If the officer is not able to make the hearing it is may be rescheduled to accommodate his/her schedule.

It is important to note that to get a dismissal based solely on the fact that the officer did not show (and had no reasonable excuse not to), an official and proper subpoena must have been served to him or her. As mentioned above, unless the officer is subpoenaed, he/she is not required to be present for the hearing. Therefore, if no subpoena was issued and the officer does not attend the hearing, then there would be no grounds for a dismissal based on that alone.

Will the prosecutor be there?

In the State of Washington, prosecutors are not required to be present at a contested hearing for a traffic ticket. Some prosecutors have chosen to be present at these hearings while others have not. Each court is different. In courts where there is no prosecutor, you would argue your case directly to the judge. However, most courts in the greater Puget Sound area do have a prosecutor for infraction cases. However, he/she may or may not be present depending on how the court handles their calendar.

Some courts only choose to schedule infraction cases to dates when a prosecutor will be present if the defendant has hired an attorney to represent them. If the defendant is handling the case on their own (pro se) the court may choose to schedule the hearing for a calendar date when the prosecutor will not be present. Still, for other courts, the prosecutor is present for all infraction cases regardless of whether an attorney will be representing the defendant or not.

The judge called my case, what do I do?

When the judge calls your case you will make your way to the front of the courtroom and take a seat at the table that is set up at the front of the room. Once the judge verifies your name and contact information you will have an opportunity to make any motions to suppress evidence and subsequently share your arguments against the traffic infraction charge against you.

One thing to keep in mind when you are making arguments is that the judge and the prosecutor are concerned with the facts of the case, not the background information or reasoning related to why you were doing what you were doing. For example, the judge and/or prosecutor are not going to be interested in hearing your statements about the fact that other cars in the fast lane were speeding as well and you were just keeping up with the flow of traffic. Try to keep your arguments related to the facts of the case and always be polite and courteous when speaking to the judge and/or prosecutor on the record.

The prosecutor is asking me questions at my contested hearing do I have to answer?

If the prosecutor has chosen to be present at your contested hearing for a traffic ticket, they may call you as a witness and ask you questions regarding your traffic infraction. Now you may be thinking why can’t I simply plead the Fifth? However, since this is a civil case, not a criminal case you do not have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent. This right can become available in limited circumstances but largely will not apply in the most traffic infraction cases.

Therefore, depending on your case, be prepared to answer questions such as, How fast were you going that day? What color was the light when you entered the intersection?

The judge is about to make a decision. What is the burden of proof?

This is another area of confusion for most people. While you often hear that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that is not the case with traffic infractions. Instead, a preponderance of the evidence has to be established to find an infraction committed. That means that just 51% of the evidence indicates that the defendant was more likely than not to have committed the infraction for the Judge to rule against you.

In other words, the majority of the evidence provided (by you, the city, the prosecutor, the officer, and any other parties involved) supports the fact that the defendant did, in fact, commit the infraction. If you cannot provide enough evidence to support the fact that you did not commit the infraction as it was charged it is likely that the ticket will be found committed.

I lost my contested hearing for a traffic ticket…now what?

If you lose your hearing, you will be required to pay the fine for the ticket, and the infraction will be found committed. Typically, most courts give the defendant 30-60 days or more to take care of the fine payment. Also, some courts will allow you to set up a payment plan so that you can make payments over time until the balance is paid in full. Be sure to inquire about that at the time of the hearing if you do not think you will be able to pay the full amount within the allotted time frame given.

Once the infraction is found committed that information will be reported to the Department of Licensing and the ticket will become part of your driving abstract.

In addition, once an infraction gets reported to the Department of Licensing it becomes visible and available to insurance companies. Most insurance companies will raise your rates after a ticket is found committed or an accident is designated on your driving record. Even a minor speeding ticket of just five mph over the limit could result in a significant increase in your insurance premiums, especially given the fact that committed infractions stay on your driving record for three years in the state of Washington.

This is so confusing; can I hire a traffic ticket lawyer to do this for me?

Absolutely! Honestly, we feel that is the best option for most defendants dealing a traffic infraction. If you hire a local traffic ticket attorney, like us, you will not have to attend the court hearing for your case. The attorney will be present on your behalf, and your attendance will be waived in court. You won’t have to worry about taking off work or what you will say to the Judge when your case is called because you will not have to attend. We take the stress of the court appearance off of your plate so you can focus on more important things.

We have years of experience dealing with traffic ticket cases in dozens of courts all over Washington. We understand the procedures for all of the different courts that we practice in, and we know how to use that knowledge to your advantage in each case. We have long-standing, positive relationships with the prosecutors and judges in each court as well. This allows us to have a much higher level of success than those that choose to defend themselves in court.

Our overall success rate for keeping traffic tickets off of the driver’s record is over 98%, and our experience is unmatched to most in the surrounding area. If you have recently been cited for a Pierce, King, Kitsap, Thurston, Lewis or Snohomish traffic ticket and would prefer to have an attorney represent you instead of dealing with the case yourself, give us a call at (253) 201-2001. If you have other questions that we did not address in this article, feel free to contact us. We look forward to serving you soon!


Drowsy Driving – 4 Common Risk Factors and Warning Signs

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While you may not realize it, drowsy driving is a big problem on our nation’s roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 vehicle crashes are caused by drowsy driving each year. You’d likely be hardpressed to find a driver these days that has not gotten behind the wheel at some point knowing that they were a bit too tired to drive. With the constant demands of living in a 24/7 society, it can be difficult to maintain a routine sleep pattern and make sure you are getting enough rest on a daily basis. We all know it is not easy but it is important.

State lawmakers and law enforcement agencies agree and as a result some, including the state of Washington, have taken big steps to address the problem of drowsy driving in the last several years. Both Arkansas and New Jersey have recently enacted laws that make it a felony for a fatigued driver to cause a vehicle crash that results in a fatality. Similar proposals have been presented in New York and Washington state as well. While the bill has not yet passed in Washington state, law enforcement agencies have taken advanced measures to identify drowsy drivers on the road and have implemented emphasis patrols for this week to highlight Drowsy Driver Prevention Week across the state.

With all of the local initiatives that have been put into action in an effort to bring heightened awareness to this issue, it is important to understand and be able to identify some of the most common risk factors and warning signs for drowsy driving. Keep reading to find out the 4 most common risk factors for drowsy driving and find out how you can prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of getting behind the wheel when fatigued.

4 Common Risk Factors and Warning Signs for Drowsy Driving

1) Sleep Deprivation or Fatigue

Okay, so this may seem like a no-brainer. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep, it is more likely that you will be drowsy while driving. While most would agree that this is a fairly obvious risk factor, not many actually take it very seriously when making the decision to get behind the wheel. Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in all states. Similar to alcohol and drugs, sleep deprivation impairs driving skills like hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and awareness of surroundings. Approximately 11 million drivers admit that they have had a crash or near crash because they dozed off or were too tired to drive (2005 Sleep in America poll).

How to Prevent It: Again, while the answer may seem fairly obvious, the easiest way to address the risk factor of sleep deprivation is to make getting the right amount of rest a priority. Sleep is as vital to our well-being as food and water are, yet many put it last on their list of priorities. Be good to yourself and make time for sleep. If you have a long drive ahead of you, make sure you get a good night’s rest beforehand and schedule breaks along the way so you don’t get too fatigued. If you find that you are getting sleepy while you are driving, even for a short time, pull over and take a break or a quick nap. Even just a little bit of sleep can make a big difference for your body and your brain and can prevent further drowsy driving risks.

2) Your Age – Young Drivers are at a Greater Risk for Drowsy Driving

Combining inexperience with sleepiness and a tendency to drive at night puts young drivers at a higher risk for drowsy driving. This is especially true for males between the ages of 16 and 25 years. Studies show that only 20% of teens get the recommended 9 hours of sleep on school nights, and nearly 45% sleep less than 8 hours on school nights (National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 Sleep in America poll). In addition, many young folks are juggling a great deal of responsibilities, which makes getting enough sleep a difficult challenge to overcome. Teens often try to manage hefty academic responsibilities, after-school activities, family duties, work tasks, and their social lives. With so much to juggle it’s no wonder teens are regularly sleep-deprived and often drive when they are drowsy. For more information on teen driver issues and concerns, take a look at our previous blog post on National Teen Driver Safety Week.

How to Prevent It: As a parent, you can make sure to keep tabs on your son or daughter’s sleep habits. While it may not be easy to implement a regular bedtime, especially for older children, it can truly benefit them in the long run. If trying to get your teen to stick to a regular bedtime is too difficult, at the very least, try to make sure your teen has appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with an overload of responsibilities so that they don’t deprive themselves of sleep in order to manage all that they are dealing with.

Pulling all-nighters on a regular basis should not be how your son or daughter prepares for school tests or projects. However, if it can’t be avoided try to help them make alternative arrangements for getting to school the next day. Instead of driving themselves when they have had little to no sleep, offer to drive them yourself or help them coordinate a ride from a friend so they are not driving while they are drowsy. Also, don’t forget to talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drowsy driving. While you may understand the importance of talking to your child about the risks of alcohol or drug use, discussing the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel can be just as impactful for your young driver. Do your best to make time for that conversation now if you haven’t already.

3) Untreated Sleep Disorders


An undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder can keep you from getting enough sleep on a regular basis, which can make you very tired during the day. Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Those that may contribute to fatigue during the day and drowsy driving incidents include: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, and narcolepsy. It is estimated that 12 million people in the United States have OSA. In addition according to the National Sleep Foundation, people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are up to 7 times more likely to have a drowsy driving crash. If you suffer from a sleep disorder your sleep patterns can become fragmented or disrupted on a regular basis, which can result in an accumulated “sleep debt” over time. That “sleep debt” must be repaid at some point in order for your body to continue functioning at an optimum level. Unfortunately, your body may involuntarily address an accumulated “sleep debt” at unexpected times, such as behind the wheel of a car.

How to Prevent It: The best thing you can do to prevent drowsy driving incidents that result from a sleep disorder is to get treatment from a physician. If you notice any symptoms of a possible sleep disorder, contact a doctor as soon as possible so you can get treated. If you notice that you are starting to fall asleep during the day or you are nodding off during everyday activities despite getting 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis, a sleep disorder could be to blame. In addition, if you have irregular breathing or increased movement during sleep you could be suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder that can impact your driving abilities.

Sometimes it can be difficult for the person experiencing these symptoms to recognize them, but they be more noticeable to a spouse or family member. If you tend to exhibit any or all of these behaviors on a regular basis, make sure to get in touch with your doctor to see if you may have a sleep disorder. Treatments are readily available for most disorders and can be very helpful for yourself and other drivers you interact with on the roadways.

4) Late or Early Morning Driving

If you drive late at night or early in the morning you may be more likely to fall asleep at the wheel simply because your body’s internal clock (controlled by your brain) is telling it that it’s time to go to sleep. Consider this: Your body has an internal clock that triggers certain involuntary behaviors at specific times throughout the day in order to maintain your physical well-being. For example, you may be surprised to learn that your hormone signals, general alertness, and body temperature changes throughout the day at certain times without you even knowing it. These physical changes are completely involuntary and we have very little control over their occurrence.

The good news is that although we can’t control our internal clock we can trust that it knows what is it doing and is ultimately trying to keep our body functioning at the highest level. One way it does this is by following circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are cycles in your body that occur in 24-hour patterns. Your internal clock follows these circadian rhythms to make you feel sleepy or alert at regular times every day. You must have sleep to survive and for your body to function properly so to keep you from staying up for days on end, your brain induces symptoms of sleepiness in a regular pattern to make you rest regardless of whether you want to or not.

Generally, our bodies become sleepy at night and again in the middle of the day. It is most natural for your body to go to sleep when it is dark outside, which is why most people often have a very difficult time trying to fight off sleep at night even when they are well-rested. This also explains why most vehicle crashes caused by drowsy driving occur between midnight and 8:00 AM. However, our internal clock also makes us sleepy during the middle of the day. While this helps explain why some folks can’t seem to pass up a little afternoon nap or why they might need a caffeine refill around mid-day, it also supports statistics that show falling asleep at the wheel regularly occurs between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.

How to Prevent It: So what can you do to combat this? I’m sure we all know that when it’s time for bed, it’s not very easy to fight your body’s natural instincts to sleep. The simple answer is to try and avoid driving at night it possible. If you must drive at night, make sure you get plenty of sleep beforehand so you can stay more alert behind the wheel. In addition, while it is most definitely not a replacement for proper, restful sleep, consuming a little caffeine can be helpful at times. A small amount of caffeine can help give your body a short boost that may help you stay more alert. However, keep in mind that everyone reacts to caffeine differently and you need to be careful with how much you consume and how often you consume it as well. It can be a good idea to also take a short nap just after consuming caffeine as well. Taking a nap gives your body a chance to get a bit of rest, which it will likely respond to even better than the caffeine itself, and it will allow time for the caffeine to kick in too. Just try to keep in mind that while caffeine consumption can be helpful for a quick boost in alertness its effects are only short term. Caffeine cannot replace your body’s need for sleep and ultimately the best way to prepare for driving at night is to stay well-rested.

A few more things to consider …

People who are fatigued or don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis have a higher risk of falling asleep at the wheel. This is especially true for commercial drivers that spend long hours on the road and people that work late shifts. According to the National Sleep Foundation, working the night shift increases your risk for drowsy driving by nearly 6 times! Those that work more than 60 hours per week or who are rotating-shift workers need to extra mindful of their driving behaviors since their sleep patterns will likely be disrupted on a regular basis. Individuals that drive for a living, especially for long periods of time such as long haul commercial truckers, are much more likely to have fall-asleep crashes. In addition, if you are a business traveler you might spend more time on the road compared to the average commuter and you might experience jet lag. Crossing time zones can throw of your body’s internal clock and cause confusion for your body as to when you should be sleeping and when you should be awake. Both of these factors can contribute to an increased risk for drowsy driving accidents so make sure that you get plenty of rest if you plan to be operating a motor vehicle.

Ultimately, the biggest thing to remember is this: accidents caused by drowsy driving are preventable. We all know that feeling tired while driving is likely to occur at some point during our lives but that does not mean we should actively choose to drive that way on a regular basis. In this day and age we all have a great deal of responsibilities to manage but regardless of how busy we may keep ourselves, we must make sure to take care of our bodies and make sleep a priority on a regular basis. Staying well-rested will not only help our bodies function more efficiently, it can help to prevent a possible accident or injury caused by drowsy driving. Keep in mind that if you fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident, even one that does not involve any other vehicles or drivers, you could be seriously injured. In addition, if you display signs of drowsy driving while behind the wheel — whether an accident has occurred or not — you could be cited with Negligent Driving in the 2nd Degree or Reckless Driving by law enforcement. The bottom line is: drowsy drivers put everyone on the road in danger. If you consider the information and tips in this article seriously you can help prevent unnecessary catastrophes on the roadways in the future. So get your rest so you can stay safe and stay alert at the wheel. Your safety is worth it.



Halloween Safety Tips

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Have you picked out your costume yet? Have you planned out your Trick-or-Treat route for this year? Tomorrow is Halloween, and it is by far one of my favorite holidays to celebrate, especially in the Pacific Northwest. There are so many local events and activities to check out in the area. If you are still looking for something ghoulish to do, I recommend taking a look at this article from the South Sound Magazine: Tacoma’s Best Halloween Activities for some ideas.

Even if you don’t plan on going out for Halloween this year, there can still be a lot of stress surrounding the holiday. Whether you are focused on making sure you have enough candy to pass out, or you’re hoping you can get that last minute DIY costume glued together in time, Halloween night comes with a lot of fun, but also a lot to worry about. This year I wanted to make sure that, in addition to racking up the largest candy pile on the block, you are prepared for a safe and fun night across the Puget Sound. If you follow the tips detailed below, you can keep your worries about the safety of yourself, your friends, and your family to a minimum and focus on enjoying the holiday instead.

You may be surprised to learn that although Halloween is ideally supposed to be all about amusement, candy, and fun — it can also be full of dangerous situations for both you and your family. The fact that DUI’s and alcohol-related incidents spike on October 31st may not be surprising to you, especially since alcohol has become a big part of the holiday. This year it is expected that more than 61 million households across the country will either attend or host a Halloween party and a recent survey suggests that 55% of those households plan to include alcohol in their celebrations. Including alcohol in your festivities can certainly liven up the party but if you do plan to consume alcohol this Halloween, please make plans to have a designated driver, so you aren’t tempted to get behind the wheel. You could risk not only a DUI charge but also the potential to hurt yourself or others in an accident. Plan ahead and remember that your safety and the safety of others is simply not worth the risk.

While potential DUI charges and/or accidents involving alcohol are something to surely prepare for, that’s not the only safety concern. In addition to the dangers that drinking and driving on Halloween pose, there are also plenty of safety issues for drivers that have not consumed alcohol to consider. You may have already noticed that the days are getting shorter and the sun is starting to set earlier in the evening. As darkness continues to come earlier in the day, it also becomes harder for drivers to see pedestrians, especially small children wearing dark costumes or clothing, in the dark. In fact, most auto accidents involving pedestrians occur when it is dark. Couple that with the fact that in the Pacific Northwest roads are often slick from rain, and you could potentially have a recipe for disaster on Halloween night if you are not taking extra precautions as a driver. As those that have lived in Washington for any amount of time surely know, even if the weather forecast predicts a 0% chance of precipitation, it is best to prepare for rain anyway. Water on roadways also increases the glare from vehicle lights and can decrease the driver’s visibility.

Make sure that if you are out driving on Halloween night you decrease your speed in residential areas and pay close attention to your surroundings. According to a recent analysis of fatality records on Halloween, more than 70% of car accidents on October 31st occur away from intersections and crosswalks. Stay extra vigilant and watch for children darting out into the street. It’s best not to pass stopped vehicles. They may be dropping off passengers or children. If you are the one stopping to drop off passengers, make sure to turn on your hazard lights so you can communicate with other drivers. Always yield to young pedestrians too. When families are in large groups it can be a challenge to keep track of everyone. Children might not stop for you either because they don’t see your vehicle approaching or they might not know how to safely cross the street. Kids are often overly excited to fill their bags with candy on Halloween night and don’t always consider the safe practices they have been taught to use when crossing the street.

It is especially important for younger, inexperienced drivers to consider the tips mentioned above. Young drivers, ages 15 to 25 years, accounted for ⅓ of all fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween from 1990 to 2010 (Fatality Analysis Reporting System). Unfortunately, because they have less experience on the road, the reflexes of new drivers and their decreased ability to anticipate potentially hazardous driving situations can lead to catastrophic consequences. As a parent, it may be best to simply keep your young driver off the road on Halloween night altogether — both for their safety as well as the safety of others. At the very least, try to keep them from driving from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Historically, over 60% of motor vehicle accidents on October 31st occurred during this 4-hour window, with ¼ of accidents taking place between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM (Fatality Analysis Reporting System).

Also, as a parent, if you have children headed out for trick-or-treating it never hurts to provide them with extra visibility features. Give them a flashlight or glow stick that can be worn with their costume. The easier it is for drivers to see them, the less likely it is for them to be hit by a motorist. Make sure you teach them how to cross the street properly or as an alternative to trick-or-treating outdoors, consider attending a local trunk or treat event that is indoors. Oftentimes these types of activities can be just as much, if not more, fun than going out on Halloween night — especially if it ends up raining on trick-or-treat night.

Ultimately, I hope that your Halloween night is full of fun and memories that you can look back on with a smile. So, go out and have a good time, but no matter your age or the activities you have planned for Halloween, please keep the tips I’ve listed here in mind as you enjoy the night. We truly care about your safety. From all of us here at Garguile Law, PLLC — Happy Halloween!




National Teen Driver Safety Week: The frightening reality of teen driving!

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In case you haven’t heard, this week is National Teen Driver Safety Week. This annual initiative established by Congress in 2007, is dedicated to raising awareness and gaining community involvement in an effort to create and encourage safer driving habits among teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes have historically been, and still remain, the number one cause of teen deaths each year. In 2015 alone, over 2,300 teens in the United States ages 16 to 19 were killed and over 220,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes in 2014. While these staggering numbers can be quite alarming, accidents are not the only concern for teen drivers. Teen drivers involved in an accident are often issued a traffic ticket as well. In addition, even without an accident, young drivers are typically cited with 1 or more traffic infractions while they still hold an intermediate license, which lasts until they turn 18 years old. There are a number of reasons for this.

Teen drivers have considerably less experience operating a motor vehicle compared to their adult counterparts and are also more vulnerable to driving distractions such as cell phone use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), research shows that dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. In addition to the increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, young drivers that use their cell phone while driving can also be cited for various traffic infractions that can ultimately affect their driver’s license and insurance rates.

In the state of Washington specifically, teens (ages 16 to 18) are not permitted to use wireless devices while driving even if the device has hands-free capability. In addition, teen drivers can be pulled over for cell phone use as a primary offense, which means law enforcement can stop them even if no other traffic offense has been committed. Teen drivers can also be cited for Washington’s new Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction for operating a personal electronic device while driving. Cell phone tickets can be quite problematic for young drivers. While a teen still has his/her intermediate license, which lasts until the age of 18, being cited with a Cell Phone Use While Driving, Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction can lead to high fines and the loss of passenger and nighttime driving privileges.

For Washington drivers under the age of 18, an intermediate license can be obtained if all state requirements have been met. However, there are still a great deal of restrictions for drivers that hold an intermediate license. For example, teen drivers are not permitted to have passengers under the age of 20 (except for immediate family members) in their vehicle for the first 6 months after they have obtained their intermediate license. While this may seem unfair for teens that want to enjoy their new driving privileges with friends, it makes a lot of sense to lawmakers and parents. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000, other teenage passengers in the car with a young driver can significantly increase the likelihood of crashes, compared to when driving alone. Research shows that because teen drivers are often less focused on the road when their peers are in the car, the risk for fatal crashes increases significantly as the number of teenagers in the car goes up (JAMA). Furthermore, teen drivers can be cited with a traffic infraction — that comes with a hefty fine — for violating the passenger restrictions of an intermediate license (RCW 46.20.075).

In addition to passenger restrictions, for the first 12 months after obtaining an intermediate license in the state of Washington, teen drivers are not permitted to drive between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. For all ages, fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night; but the risk is higher for teen drivers. With the ever-increasing social, academic, and physical demands placed on young drivers today, they are often at a higher risk for drowsy driving. According to NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2015 alone, teen drivers (ages 15 to 18) accounted for almost 1 out of every 10 fatal drowsy driving accidents. Since the risk for teen driver accidents during late night/early morning hours is so high, it’s important for these young drivers to get plenty of sleep before getting behind the wheel and to be extra cautious when driving at night. Even if there is no accident involved, teen drivers can still be cited with a ticket for an intermediate license violation (RCW 46.20.075) if they are pulled over in the state of Washington between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. An infraction like this can come with a high fine and can also result in a loss of driving privileges under certain circumstances.

In addition to intermediate license violations, teen drivers are also subject to speeding infractions just as adult drivers are. In fact, speeding is often a more critical safety issue for teen drivers as compared to their adult counterparts. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that from 2000-2011, teens were involved in 19,447 speeding-related crashes. Most experienced drivers understand that with increased speed comes the need for increased stopping distance to avoid a collision. However, due to their lack of experience and maturity, this principle is often overlooked by teen drivers. According to a study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2005, teens are actually more likely than older drivers to speed and to allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). In addition to speeding, some drivers that don’t allow for enough stopping distance may also be cited with a Following too Close ticket (RCW 46.61.145), even if there is no accident involved. Speeding tickets can be a big problem for young drivers, especially those with a Washington state intermediate license. High ticket fines of $100 or more are one thing for these drivers to consider, but a potential loss of driving privileges and an increase in insurance rates can be another.

The Bottom Line:

Teen drivers that hold an intermediate license are not only at a higher risk for motor vehicle crashes due to some of the reasons mentioned above, but an accumulation of 1 or more traffic offenses can, under certain circumstances, also lead to the loss of their driving privileges until they turn 18 years old. For teen drivers, it’s important to consider the following key points:

  1. The first time a teen driver with an intermediate license either receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident, his or her passenger and nighttime driving restrictions will be extended beyond the regular 6-12 months all the way until the turn 18.
  2. The second time he or she receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident (while still on an intermediate license), his or her license will be suspended for 6 months (or until he or she turns 18, whichever comes first).
  3. The third time a traffic ticket is received or the teen driver is involved in an accident, his or her license will be suspended until he or she turns 18.

          (Department of Licensing – Washington)

The good news is that our firm fights traffic tickets, even those that are issued because of an accident, for both adult and intermediate drivers alike. If you or your teen has been cited with a traffic ticket in the state of Washington you don’t have to worry. Give us a call at (253) 201-2001. For teen drivers on an intermediate license, we have a great track record of keeping all driving privileges intact and preventing traffic tickets from becoming part of the driver’s record. We hope to hear from you soon!


New Distracted Law Approved By Washington State Lawmakers

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Holding a cellphone whilе driving becomes illegal this month on July 23, 2017. The new law bans the use of handheld devices while driving, even if you are stopped at a red light. That means no texting, no holding your phone to look at your GPS, no checking your social media and no more Snapchatting.

Originally, the bill was slated to go into effect in 2019. However, Gоv. Jау Inѕlее accelerated the new law by vetoing a compromise that had been reached by the Legislature back in May of this year.

Currеnt lаw оnlу рrоhibitѕ texting оr holding a phone tо thе ear whilе driving, but under thе new law, drivers will bе prohibited from hоlding an electronic dеviсе – inсluding phones, tablets, аnd other еlесtrоniс devices – whilе driving, including whilе in traffic оr waiting fоr a trаffiс light tо change. Hоwеvеr, the new law does allow for “the minimal uѕе оf a fingеr” to асtivаtе, deactivate, or initiаtе a funсtiоn of a реrѕоnаl еlесtrоniс dеviсе while driving.

Thе fine for violating the new law will be the same as it was before of $136 for your first violation but will inсrеаѕе tо $234 fоr subsequent violations (if you had a previous cell phone infraction within five years). More importantly, a violation of the new law will now be considered a moving violation and reportable tо insurance соmраniеѕ, which will likely raise rаtеѕ likе аnу оthеr mоving viоlаtiоn.

Another ѕесtiоn оf thе new statute ѕауѕ a реrѕоn whо еngаgеѕ in any other behavior that interferes with safe driving, such as grooming, smoking, eating or reading, could result in a $99 infraction if you are pulled over for another offense.

An example of this would be if аn оffiсеr catches a driver being diѕtrасtеd while соmmitting a ѕtаndаrd trаffiс offense, ѕuсh аѕ running a stop sign bесаuѕе their coffee spilled, or a реt jumped in thеir lар. In that scenario, the driver would have a $136 fine for running the stop sign and an additional $99 fine for the distraction.

Wаѕhingtоn’ѕ previous cell phone laws wеnt into effect bеfоrе thе firѕt iPhone wаѕ rеlеаѕеd. Thе previous law оnlу сlаmреd dоwn on conversations аnd tеxting – аnd didn’t drеаm of рhоnеѕ with cameras and a арр ѕtоrе thаt сurrеntlу ѕеllѕ 3.8 Milliоn diffеrеnt аррѕ оn Gооglе Plау аlоnе.

As much as we all love the convenience our phones provide, we also, at the end of the day, just want to get to and from where we are going safely. Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that as we can do more with our phones the more dangerous, we have become as drivers. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports one in four crashes involves cell phone use just before the crash. Even more alarming is the fact that fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 throughout Washington State.

Although this new law will be an inconvenience for most drivers, myself included, I believe it’s a small price to pay for safer roads. Thе bоttоm linе is that our brains аrеn’t аblе tо multi-task. We can оnlу соnсеntrаtе оn Оnе task аt a time, аnd driving is a tаѕk that rеԛuirеѕ оur full аttеntiоn.