Watch out: Traffic fines are going up

Be more aware of how you drive this weekend, because starting Sunday, the price of a traffic ticket is going up.

During its recently completed session, the state Legislature increased the Public Safety and Education Assessment (PSEA) on traffic fines from 60 percent to 70 percent of the fine amount, and the additional PSEA from 30 percent to 35 percent of the fine. What this means, for example, is if a violation costs $100, the total cost of the ticket will be $170 or $135, respectively.

The law also increases the $10 additional penalty for traffic infractions established by the Legislature in 2001 to $20. The law requires $8.50 of the $20 assessment to the PSEA. Distribution of the remaining $11.50 allots 68 percent to local government and crime victims, and 32 percent to PSEA.

In most cases, the $20 additional penalty is part of the fine amount, except for parking infractions and speeding in a construction zone.

Some common charges and penalty amounts, like driving without proof of insurance, second-degree negligent driving or not having a valid operator's license with a valid ID, carry with them a fine to the tune of $538, up from $490.

Expired tabs under two months will now cost $101, up from $86; over two months would set a violator back $194, up from $171. Many rules of the road, like failure to stop, improper lane usage, fail to signal, fail to yield and an improper pass, will cost $101, up from $86.

Drivers travelling through school zones should take notice that speeding in the school zone or playground area carries a hefty fine of $177, up from $157.

Boaters should also be aware that the change in fines also applies to water craft. A person not wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) will be fined $128. Not having a PFD for every person on vessel or readily accessible costs a boat owner $76.

But don't look for any of this extra fine money to pay for new cars for the Island County Sheriff's Office. Jan Smith, a spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said local law enforcement doesn't get any of that money.

"We get nothing," she said in an interview Thursday.

The Washington State Patrol is the only law enforcement agency that does get a cut of the traffic tickets it issues. However, all law enforcement agencies, as well as district traffic courts, must enforce the new penalty amounts.

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