WASHINGTON — State law sets fine amounts for traffic violations, but the real costs of getting a ticket can be far higher, especially for serious offenses like negligent driving and drunk driving.
A Chinook Observer article about a two-fatality collision on Aug. 18 said the driver, Branson Meyers, 22, of Longview, would have to pay a fine of up $5,000 for his second-degree negligent driving with vulnerable user ticket (the base fine is $5,000 but a judge can lower it to as little as $1,000). On social media, some readers said they were disturbed that a driver who allegedly killed two people and seriously injured two others might pay a relatively small amount for his actions.
After the article was published, a law enforcement officer pointed out that the official fine amount is only part of the penalty, because additional fees imposed by the state Legislature can more than double the cost of a ticket.
State law sets fines for 78 civil traffic infractions, ranging from $20 to $500. The most common ticket amount is $48. Criminal traffic infractions come with fees of $1,000 to $5,000.
Wendy Ferrell, a spokesperson for the Washington State Administration of the Courts, said people who get tickets also pay a Public Safety and Education (PSEA) fee of 105 percent, a $5 trauma care fee, a $10 auto-theft prevention fee and a $2 Traumatic Brain Injury Account fee. In the end, a typical $48 ticket ends up costing $136. People who don’t pay on time or don’t show up to court dates often end up facing higher penalties, license suspensions and even jail time.
Assuming a judge orders Meyers to pay the full $5,000 fine, he will ultimately have to pay $10,287.
Drivers who have serious offenses on their records end up paying in other ways as well. An Insurance.com analysis of almost 500,000 auto insurance quotes found that people who are convicted of negligent driving typically face a premium increase of 16 to 22 percent.