Washington New Resident Guide

Welcome to Washington! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in Washington. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements

  • New residents must obtain a valid Washington driver's license within 30 days from the date they become residents.
  • New Washington residents have 30 days from the date they become residents to register their vehicles. A resident is a person who shows intent to live or be located in the state on more than a temporary or transient basis. Evidence of residency includes but is not limited to registering to vote in the state, receiving public assistance benefits from the state, or declaring residency for the purpose of obtaining a state license or in-state tuition.
  • You must report your new address to us within 10 days after moving.

Graduated Licensing Program

Instruction Permit


  • If enrolled in driver's education class:
    • Must be 15 years old.
  • If not enrolled in driver's education class:
    • Must be 15 1/2 or older;
    • Must pass knowledge test.
  • Must pass vision screening.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May drive when accompanied by a 5-year licensed driver.

Driver License


  • Must be at least 16;
  • Must have completed driver training course;
  • Must hold permit at least 6 months before obtaining your driver license;
  • Must not have been convicted of any traffic violations within 6 months of application;
  • Must not have been convicted of any alcohol or drug offense while holding permit;
  • Must have completed at least 50 hours of driving practice, including 10 at night;
  • Must pass drive test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • First 6 months: No passengers under 20 years old, except for immediate family members (spouse, child, stepchild, or siblings, both by birth and marriage).
  • Next 6 months: No more than 3 passengers under 20 years old who aren't members of your immediate family.
  • First 12 months, may not drive unsupervised between 1 AM and 5 AM.
  • You may only use a wireless device to report an emergency.
  • After 1 year of violation-free driving, passenger and nighttime restrictions are lifted.
  • Once you reach age 18, all restrictions are lifted.

Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.

Washington does not have a point system, but traffic violations are still recorded on your driving record.

Insurance Requirements

If you drive a vehicle that is required to be registered in Washington State, you must have one of the following:

Auto insurance

  • The auto insurance policy must have limits of at least:
    • $25,000 of bodily injury or death of 1 person in any 1 accident.
    • $50,000 of bodily injury or death of any 2 people in any 1 accident.
    • $10,000 of injury to or destruction of property of others in any 1 accident.

Self insurance

  • If you have 26 or more vehicles, you may qualify for self-insurance.

Certificate of deposit

  • The certificate of deposit must be for at least $60,000. You can make a deposit of collateral with the State Treasurer'' office or in a bank account set up for the state of Washington.

Liability bond

  • The bond must be for at least $60,000, and must be filed by a surety bond company authorized to do business in Washington.

Headlight Laws

You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or when within 300 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you.

You must use your headlights:

  • From a half hour after sunset until a half hour before sunrise.
  • Any time conditions make it difficult to see people or other vehicles.

There is no specific law allowing or prohibiting headlight flashing.

Implied Consent Laws

  • First Refusal (within 7 years) - Revocation/Denial 1 year.
  • Second or Subsequent Refusal (within 7 years) - Revocation/ Denial 2 years or until the person reaches age 21, whichever is longer.

DUI Penalties

First Conviction (within 7 years)

  • 1 - 364 days imprisonment.
  • $350 - $5,000 fine.
  • 90 day license suspension.
  • 1 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

First Conviction (BAC .15 or more)

  • 2 - 364 days imprisonment.
  • $500 - $5,000 fine.
  • 1 year license suspension.
  • 1 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Second Conviction (within 7 years)

  • 30 - 364 days imprisonment.
  • 60 days electronic home monitoring.
  • $500 - $5,000 fine.
  • 2 year license revocation.
  • 5 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Second Conviction (BAC .15 or more)

  • 45 - 34 days imprisonment.
  • 90 days electronic home monitoring.
  • $750 - $5,000 fine.
  • 900 day license revocation.
  • 5 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Third and Fourth Convictions (within 7 years)

  • 90 - 364 days imprisonment.
  • 120 days electronic home monitoring.
  • $1,000 - $5,000 fine.
  • 3 year license revocation.
  • 10 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Third and Fourth Convictions (BAC .15 or more)

  • 120 - 365 days imprisonment.
  • 150 days electronic home monitoring.
  • $1,500 - $5,000 fine.
  • 4 year license revocation.
  • 10 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Fifth or Subsequent Conviction OR Subsequent Conviction with Previous Conviction of Vehicular Homicide/Assault (within 10 years) (Class C felony)

  • Up to 5 years imprisonment.
  • Up to $10,000 fine.
  • 3 year license revocation.
  • 10 year ignition interlock after suspension period.

Alcohol Education and Treatment

  • A court-ordered assessment will determine whether an offender will be required to attend an alcohol education course or treatment.

Child Endangerment

  • If a child, less than 16, was a passenger in the vehicle, ignition interlock shall be ordered for an additional 60 days.

Open Container Law

In Washington, not only is it a traffic infraction to possess or drink an alcoholic beverage while in a motor vehicle on a highway, but there is a separate and additional violation if an alcoholic beverage is disguised so as to drink or possess in a motor vehicle.

Red Light Violation Fines

  • Traditional enforcement: $250 maximum fine.
  • Auto enforcement: $250 maximum fine; no record; no points.

Construction Zone Penalties

  • Speeding violations are subject to two times the original fine, whether or not workers are present.
  • Under a separate law, reckless endangerment of highway workers in a roadway construction zone is a gross misdemeanor, subject to a maximum fine of $5000 or 1 year in jail, or both.

Turn Signal Information

Signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance.

Hazard Light Information

Hazard light use is permitted for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking or passing.

Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws

  • Washington has no state law regarding right of way for a funeral procession.
  • Funeral processions are not required to allow sufficient space between vehicles so as to enable any other vehicle to enter and occupy such space without danger.

School Bus Laws


  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on the opposite side of a divided highway or a highway with 3 or more marked traffic lanes.


  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a fine of up to $500.

Bicyclist Passing Distance

There is no specific law regarding minimum safe passing distance.

Motorcycle Laws


  • No person may drive a motorcycle or motor-driven cycle unless such person has a valid driver's license specially endorsed by the DOL to authorize the holder to drive such vehicles.
  • A person holding a valid driver's license who wishes to learn to ride a motorcycle may apply for a motorcycle instruction permit. The DOL will issue an instruction permit after the applicant has passed all parts of the motorcycle examination other than the driving test.
  • A person holding a motorcycle instruction permit may drive a motorcycle on the public highways if the person has immediate possession of the permit and a driver's license. A permit holder may not carry passengers and may not operate a motorcycle during hours of darkness. A motorcycle instruction permit is valid for 90 days.
  • The DOL may waive all or part of the motorcycle endorsement examination for persons who satisfactorily complete the voluntary motorcycle operator training and education program.

Protective Gear

  • Any person riding or operating a motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, or moped must wear an approved helmet.


  • Every motorcycle and motor-driven cycle must have its headlamps and tail-lamps lighted whenever the vehicle is in motion on a highway.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.

Using the Shoulder to Pass

You may not drive off the roadway to pass on the right.

Passing Laws

Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing;
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel;
  • When a bicycle or pedestrian is within view of the driver and is approaching from the opposite direction, or is present in the roadway, shoulder, or bicycle lane within an unsafe distance.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle;
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn;
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

Exceeding Speed Limit to Pass:

  • On a highway with one lane of traffic in each direction, you may exceed the speed limit when passing a vehicle driving at less than the legal maximum speed.
  • You may only proceed at such a speed and for only such a distance as is necessary to complete the pass with a reasonable margin of safety.

Speed Limits

  • 60 mph on State highways;
  • 50 mph on county roads;
  • 25 mph on city and town streets.

Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws

Safety Belts

  • Occupants 16 years and older must wear a safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for belt law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $124.

Child Seats

  • Children 7 years and younger and less than 4'9" must be in a child seat.
  • Children 12 years and younger must be in the rear seat if practical.
  • Children ages 8 - 15 and children 7 years and younger and 4'9" or taller must be restrained, and may use an adult safety belt.
  • Children over 40 pounds may use an adult safety belt in any seating position where there is only a lap belt available.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $124.

Emergency Vehicle Laws

Move Over

  • When you are approaching an emergency zone, meaning the 200 feet before and after a stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, or another vehicle providing roadside assistance, you must do the following:
    • On a highway having four or more lanes, at least two of which are intended for traffic proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle, proceed with caution and, make a lane change or move away from the vehicle.
    • On a highway having less than four lanes, proceed with caution, reduce the speed of the vehicle, and pass to the left at a safe distance.
    • If changing lanes or moving away would be unreasonable or unsafe, proceed with due caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle.


  • Do not follow any fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 500 feet or stop such vehicle within five hundred feet of any fire apparatus stopped in answer to a fire alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled.
  • If you have collided with a vehicle that is unattended or other unattended property, locate and notify the operator or owner of the driver's name and address and the owner's name and address. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information.
  • If there was only property damage, you must move the vehicle as soon as possible off the roadway.
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Insurance company and policy number;
    • Vehicle license number;
    • Show driver's license upon request.
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • Report Crash:
    • If none of the other people involved in the accident are in a condition to receive the information you are required to give them, and no police officer is present, you must report the crash to the nearest police department as soon as you have provided assistance to any injured person.
    • If the crash resulted in injury, death, or property damage of $500 or more, you must report the accident in writing within 4 days after the accident, unless the accident was investigated by a law enforcement officer.
    • If the driver is physically incapable of making an immediate or a written report of the crash, any other occupant of the vehicle who is capable of making a report must do so.