Current law on suspeding driver’s licenses protects safety

Carmen Best, former Seattle police chief, has it dead wrong in her March 29 supporting Senate Bill 5226 (“Failure to pay traffic ticket shouldn’t cost license,” The Herald, March 29). That is, traffic laws exist for public safety, not, as Best would have it, for convenience or to establish equity between financial classes.

SB 5226 dangerously ignores public safety altogether. Its focus is on making life convenient for poor people. And to that end SB 5226 removes all penalties and impediments regarding equipment violations; so long as you’re poor. Driving in snow or rain with bald tires, no brake lights or windshield wipers would be legal, if you’re poor. Carrying uncovered, unsecured loads would be legal, if you’re poor.

And supporters’ justification for this is that poor people require a car, even a dangerous one, to get to work. Don’t ask the poor to make personal sacrifices until they have enough money for the purchase price, gas, oil changes and cash reserve to replace safety equipment as it wears out. Supporters of SB 5226 see that level of personal responsibility as asking too much of poor people; but not the rest of us. In fact they’re perfectly happy to let equipment failures and dangerous driving lead to crashes that raise insurance rates for those of us who’ve been adhering to existing laws. Nor does it bother supporters when equipment failures lead to crashes that paralyze, blind or kill innocent members of the public. Insurance will compensate, say supporters; except, wait, poor people can’t afford insurance and won’t be penalized for not having it.

Consider immediately telling your legislators what you think of SB 5226.

Paul Heckel


Editor’s note: SB 5226 would not eliminate penalties for traffic violations; it would end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses for failure to pay traffic fines. A recent amendment would add a 60-day suspension and a one-year probation of license for moving violations on three or more occasions within a year, or four violations within two years.

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