Tag Archives: license

Getting one’s Discover Pass when renewing license

The in basket: A Poulsbo reader writes, “Somewhere I had read that folks could now have two vehicles on the Discover Pass, and that a purchaser could choose the month of the Discover Pass activation date.

“So, last year I went online (as usual) to DOL to renew car tabs and was pleased to notice that a Discover Pass could be purchased in the same transaction. One-stop shopping.

“There was no mention on the initial website screens of activation-month choice or of the two-vehicle option. I figured ‘Well, it will show up at the end of this process, or I’ll get an email or snail-mail later which will provide the choices.’

“It didn’t happen,” Don said. “My new tabs came in the mail, and the Discover Pass started concurrent with the tabs, and with no second vehicle option included or mentioned.

“Can you tell me how to accomplish online the one-stop shopping to include a second vehicle on the Discover Pass, and for choosing the month of the Pass activation?”

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the Department of Licensing and Angela Harper of state parks tag-teamed this one.

“Folks can indeed purchase a Discover Pass when they renew a vehicle,” said Brad. “The purchase information is passed along to Washington State Parks and they finalize it and mail the pass to the customer. I’m pretty sure that all passes they currently issue must allow the use of two vehicle license plate numbers, but I have not heard of the ability to choose the month of activation,” he said. “Last I spoke to my State Parks contacts, they were issuing passes activated at the time of purchase.” Then he referred me to the parks people.

Angela said, “When anyone purchases their Discover Pass when they renew their license tabs, the Department of Fish and Wildlife fills the order.

“All Discover Passes now have the availability of writing two license plates on them. Even if there was only one line on the pass, two licenses written in would be honored.

“For a person to select a start date on the Discover Pass they would do so through the on-line Discover Pass website at www.discoverpass.wa.gov  or toll free 1-866-320-9933,” she said. That site also has a Frequently Asked Questions area that may be helpful

As an aside, I, too, still say I’m renewing my license tabs, even though only one tab has been needed and provided for years. I wonder how long it will be before common parlance catches up with that reality.

Tribal vehicles licensed as government vehicles

The in basket: Byrd Thibodaux e-mails to say, “I saw a Clearwater Casino van with a WA State XMT license plate I04495. Are the tribal casinos considered government agencies?  Are these plates free or do the tribes pay any fees for them?

The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “Tribal governments, like city and  county governments and state agencies, are entitled to register vehicles they own (registered to the tribal government, not to a tribal member) as exempt vehicles.

“When a government vehicle is first licensed as an exempt vehicle, the government or agency owning it pays fees that are typically around $30 to $35, depending on how it is titled and the number and size of the plates issued. Once licensed, the vehicle is exempt from annual renewal requirements fees.”

Toll scanners have only one purpose

The in basket: Richard Gonzales e-mailed to say,”As a professional driver for a skilled nursing facility in Bremerton, I obviously spend a lot of time on the road. I’ve noticed, on a typical day, I will see around eight Washington State licensed vehicles without their front plates mounted.

“Mind you, this is only the vehicles I see and I can only see the plates on vehicles in the opposing traffic lane. What is the fine for missing front plates in Washington State?”

He then went on to say, “I was wondering why we couldn’t use our electronic tolling facilities to verify correctly mounted vehicle license plates? After all, those cameras photograph both the front and rear plates for the scofflaws that cross the Narrows Bridge without paying the toll.

“Why couldn’t a law enforcement officer issue citations for the vehicle owners of non-compliant vehicles? While it wouldn’t close the state’s budget shortfall, every little bit helps.”

The out basket: I, too, am surprised at the number of vehicles without front plates. I’ve said before that if I’m on a two-lane highway and start counting oncoming cars, I’ll see one without a front plate before I reach 40.

Yet police say the front plates help them do their job. I don’t know how those who don’t have them get away with it. The fine for that infraction is $124.

Anyway, I knew his suggestion for using the toll scanners to record them was a non-starter. There would be a tremendous uproar from civil liberty advocates were it to be tried, and there is a law against it.

Annie Johnson of the Good to Go! toll office for the state says, “State law is very specific about how we can use the images taken by the tolling equipment. RCW 46.63.160 is the law that covers photo tolling and it states:

“No photograph, digital photograph, microphotograph, videotape, other recorded image, or other record identifying a specific instance of travel may be used for any purpose other than toll collection or enforcement of civil penalties under this section. Records identifying a specific instance of travel by a specific person or vehicle must be retained only as required to ensure payment and enforcement of tolls and to comply with state records retention policies.”

“To summarize,” Annie said, “we can only use the images we capture with the toll equipment to collect tolls or enforcement of civil penalties for not paying the toll.  We can’t even share them with law enforcement without a court order. Any changes to the law to allow what your reader suggests would have to be made by the Legislature.”

What does ‘RV disposal fee’ dispose of?

The in basket: Michael Drouin e-mailed to say,”Upon reviewing the tab renewal form for our RV, we noticed that there is now a ‘RV disposal fee’. What is this fee?

“Is it for disposing of derelict RVs abandoned on public property?

“Is it for demolishing RVs after their usable life has ended?

“Is it another fee that Tim Eyman should file a voter initiative about a new tax?

“Is it another fee for which the payer receives no benefit?

“Or is it a fee on top of the RV dump fee that one pays to use the state parks dump sites?”

The out basket: Michael’s final guess is closest to the truth, as he probably suspects.

Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing says, “The $3 RV disposal fee, also known as the recreational vehicle sanitary facilities fee, is used by the Department of Transportation for the construction, maintenance and operation of recreational vehicle sanitary disposal systems at safety rest stations across our state.

“This fee is collected on registration transactions for campers, motor homes and travel trailers. I don’t know when this particular fee started but it certainly is not a new fee. I do know that it was increased to the current $3 on Sept. 1, 1996. Prior to this, it was $1.

“I suspect this fee has been around since 1980, because that is when the law authorizing the account the money is deposited in was created,” he said.

Brad sent along a copy of that law, which was amended this year to include the following: “During the 2009-2011 and 2011-2013 fiscal biennia, the legislature may transfer from the RV account to the motor vehicle fund such amounts as reflect the excess fund balance of the RV account to accomplish the purposes identified in this section.”

That sounds like the fund now may be tapped for other roadway purposes and I’m awaiting word from the Department of Transportation as to whether it has taken advantage of the newly granted possibility.



Incident at the driver’s license office

The in basket: Sharon O’Hara, a frequent commenter on Road Warrior columns on my blog at kitsapsun.com, has an issue of her own with the state Department of Licensing.

She was made to waste an hour waiting to renew her license only to learn she had to return for a driving test because she needs “walking sticks” to walk, she said.

“Yesterday I dropped by to renew my license,” she said, “used my two walking sticks to the first counter, waited in line until the person behind the desk asked what I wanted and received a number after I told her.

“She did not mention the walking sticks and I walked back to sit in the hard, uncomfortable chairs for almost an hour before my number was called.

She gave the next person her license. “She asked me if I had trouble driving and I said ‘No, not once I got into the car.’  I can’t walk without the sticks.

The employee excused herself to talk with someone in a side room, Sharon said, “and came back to tell me that people who use canes had to take the driver’s test.

“Surprised, I said, ‘Okay, let’s go.'”

But the tests are given only on Friday, Sharon was told, so she made a 1 p.m. appointment on a Friday. “She told me to park around back in one of the spaces provided and to wait in the car, I didn’t need to get out.
“I asked why the information wasn’t known or shown online? She looked online and couldn’t find (it).
“I told her of the wasted energy – gas – to drive there, not to speak of the almost hour wasted waiting there for something that couldn’t happen because I used ‘canes’ to walk.  That is discrimination in my book.
“My issue is not with the test.  It is that I should have known about that law/rule and been able to phone in for the appointment rather than waste the time and energy to drive there for nothing.
She was told in a phone call to DOL when she got back home that “they couldn’t take calls – that anyone could say anything over the phone – they couldn’t know the truth unless they saw the person.

“That makes no logical sense. Why would anyone claim to use canes to take a drivers test when they didn’t need to?  Nobody would do that.
“The lack of warning that cane users must take the driver test makes me feel we – walking stick and/or seniors might be discriminated against.”

The out basket: I asked Brad Benfield of the DOL if Sharon’s visit to the office had been handled correctly.

“Our staff are trained to watch individuals when they approach the service counters,” Brad said, “and listen to them during a transaction for signs that might indicate they have a physical or cognitive condition that might affect their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.

“When the staff encounter an individual they believe may have a condition that would affect their ability to drive, they have options for handling it: they can require the individual to pass a driving test, they can require the individual to be cleared to drive by a medical professional, or they can further discuss and clarify the situation with the individual and issue the license.

“If an individual is required to take the driving test, it is because our staff had a reason to believe the person’s ability to safely operate a vehicle was in question.

“Because our staff are screening for a wide variety of physical and cognitive conditions and there are several possible outcomes, it simply wouldn’t be possible to detail all of the possible scenarios on our website or in a brochure.

“There is a very wide spectrum of reasons someone might use a walking aid. Some might affect a person’s ability to drive, and others might not. Without actually seeing and talking with someone, it would be impossible to make a determination about who should be tested and who should not.

“The use of a walking aid would certainly be a factor in screening someone for a driving test, but there are usually other factors that go along with the use of the aid when a determination is made. It would not be accurate to say ‘everyone who uses a cane has to retake a driving test.'”

Still, he said, “I certainly don’t have firsthand knowledge of (Sharon’s) situation, but it appears the staff handled it appropriately. We do not want to discriminate against anyone. We also do not want to inconvenience anyone by making them take a driving test when it is clear a condition will not affect their ability to drive.”

Do highly reflective plates aid speed enforcement?

The in basket: An online commenter who goes by Mike made the following surprising comment on the Road Warrior column at kitsapsun.com, about the requirement for front license plates in this state .

“Of course there is no plan to eliminate the front plate,” he said. “The State Patrol (revenue collectors?) need the nice reflective surface for their laser guns to check your compliance while they sit in the unmarked car without lights on the right-of-way in the dark. This is the real reason that you are forced to replace perfectly good plates every few years!”

I’ve never really understood resentment about the way one gets caught doing wrong, which seems to underlie Mike’s complaint. But I suppose it’s no different that the well established practice of throwing out court cases if the search that led to the arrest is found wanting.

I asked whether Mike is right about laser’s reliance on the plates, and whether there is anything to prohibit roadside speed enforcement at night from a darkened patrol car.

The out basket: Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol detachments here says, “In no way does a reflective license plate contribute to the effectiveness of a radar/laser.  The purpose of a front license plate on a vehicle is strictly for identification purposes.

“There is nothing (in the) law or WSP policy that prohibits police vehicles (marked or unmarked) from performing radar speed enforcement at night. That includes parking stationary with lights out.” she said.

Exempt vehicles also exempt from 7-year plate replacement

The in basket: Robert Irish tells me that government vehicles, so-called exempted vehicles, also are exempted from having their license plates replaced every seven years like the rest of us. He apparently works for a government entity and said it has a vehicle with a plate issued in 1963. He also mentioned that some of the Kitsap Transit worker/driver buses have barely legible plates.

The out basket: It’s true, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing.

“State law does not require the replacement of exempt license plates (used on government-owned vehicles) every seven years. 

“Exempt license plates are handled differently that regular license plates,” he said. “They do not require annual renewals and can be transferred from vehicle to vehicle within the fleet of the agency to which the plates were originally issued. 

“Because of the way these types of plates are handled in our motor vehicle database and by our other computer systems, it would have required additional computer system changes to make them subject to our seven-year plate replacement cycle.

 “That said,” Brad added, “public agencies are not exempt from another state law that requires the license plates on their vehicles to be replaced when they become damaged or illegible. They should be replacing license plates that become difficult to read.”

Coincidentally, perhaps, Robert says he’s seen new plates on some of the government vehicles that had faded ones since he posed his question to the Road Warrior.

Should bicyclists have to be licensed?


The in basket: Three readers over the past year – Richard Burke and Ann Sencerbox of Bainbridge Island, and Chuck Fisher, have called to advocate the licensing of bicycles and bicyclists.

They cited various justifications, which boiled down to: 

– Raising money for bike lane improvements and sharing in the cost of  

maintaining roads.

– Helping identify unconscious bicyclists after an accident if there is no ID on the person.

– Better educating bicyclists about the rules of the road and the fact that they are required to obey nearly all those that motorists do.

– Helping in recovery of stolen bicycles.

– Recognizing that motorcyclists and bicyclists face similar hazards on the roads, so requiring the same kind of license endorsements for both.

Anne said, “If you have ever driven the waterfront in Seattle at commuter time, it’s really a zoo, then you have the bicyclists who pass on the right between parked cars…

“They just disappear into the crowd,” she said. “There is no way you can identify them, but if there was a nominal fee for a license, it might help with those who had so much distain for automobiles.” 

Chuck also said he recalls that a bicycle license was required when he was a kid, decades ago, in Bremerton’s Eastpark housing project. 

“Ours were green and white and maybe six inches from corner to corner and we could have it anywhere on the bicycles,” he said. 

Ann said her husband recalls the same thing from when he was a child.

The out basket: Last things first, I also recall bicycle licenses, but I think they were novelties offered by cereal companies, not a legal requirement. Do any readers have memories along these lines? 

There’s no shortage of discussion of licensing bicycles on the Internet. Just Google “licensing bicycles” and you can read pros and cons for hours, submitted from all over the country.

In the rare places where they exist, they appear to be issued by cities.

The cons generally contend such a law would be unenforceable and that most bicyclists would ignore it.. 

Other con arguments are:

– Bicyclists already pay their share with property and other taxes while causing very little wear on the roadways.

– Bicycle use shouldn’t be discouraged by such a fee, as riders reduce road wear, fuel consumption and air pollution.

– A nominal fee would be lucky to cover the costs of collecting it and contribute nothing for bike lanes or anything else, 

– Bicyclists have more in common with pedestrians than any kind of motor vehicle.

The cleverest take on this issue that I found online came from self-described 

“cranky curmudgeon” Isaac Laquedem in Portland, Ore., who proposed that bikers be required to wear city-issued bright yellow bike jackets, with their license number printed in large figures on the back of the jacket, and a bike safety class required to get a jacket.

Whatever the arguments, I checked with Lowell Porter of the state traffic safety commission, Brad Benfield of the state licensing department and Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office and none were aware of any recent efforts to require licenses for bicycles or bicyclists.

New seven-digit license plates coming to Kitsap


The in basket: I’ve been watching license plates, waiting to see one of the new seven digit plates the state began using when plates with the long-standing three-letter then three number format ran out. 

The old plates were issued alphabetically, and I haven’t noticed any of the old plates on the highway this year beginning with anything earlier in the alphabet than R. Most begin with a W, X, Y or Z.  The every-seven-year cycle of plate replacement to make sure plate reflectivity isn’t lost doomed the six-digit format and required a new one. 

I asked if any of the new plates are in use and why the state didn’t simply start over with the six-digit format since nearly all are no longer in use.

The out basket: Yes, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing. Six of the state’s 39 counties have gotten first crack at the new format, with Whitman County in eastern Washington the first. Kitsap is one of the other five, and our county’s auditor’s office says they have been issuing them since February. I have seen only one on the road, one day in Port Orchard.

As for why defunct six-digit plates aren’t resurrected, Brad said, “DOL has a long-standing policy of only issuing each plate number once. It helps eliminate the possibility of conflicts on the road and within our motor vehicle database. 

“Conflicts could arise because we

now offer vehicle owners the option of retaining their current

standard-issue license plate number (on new plates) when they are due for plate

replacement for an additional $20 fee. 

“If individuals do that for a

couple of cycles, we could theoretically catch back up with them and

produce plates that already are in use. 

“We also have procedures and laws

that would complicate any process of reissuing a new license plate with

a number that already has been used in the past. Here is an example:

“A state law declares any motor vehicle 30 years old or older as a

collector vehicle. The law permits the owner of a collector vehicle to

use a ‘restored’ license plate. A restored plate is a license plate

issued by our state that is at least 30 years old and in good condition

that is reassigned to a collector vehicle. 

“The restored plate has to

have been issued in the same year that the collector vehicle was

manufactured. For example, if you have a 1965 Mustang that you want to

license as a collector vehicle (there are restrictions on how you can

use a collector vehicle), you can choose to use an actual Washington

state license plate issued in 1965 in place of the DOL-issued collector

vehicle license plate. 

“Within about seven years, plates with the

mountain background and modern plate numbers will become eligible for

reuse on collector vehicles.”

License unneeded off the public roadways

The in basket: Dale Ireland of Silverdale wonders if he has to buy a license tab for his old 1973 truck, which he uses only on private property.

“We live in a development with 25 homes and a 10-acre common area including a

grass dump and a number of small private roads,” he said. “I use the truck

use to take yard waste to the dump area, all on the private roads. 

“Do I have to pay for license tabs? I have auto insurance just

because I want to be safe but I was wondering if I have to pay the state

license fee if I don’t drive it on public roads. Is the tab fee a property

tax or a road use tax? What if a car is in storage?”

It’s an academic question for him, he said, as he’ll probably buy the tab anyway, in case he wants to take the truck onto the public roads. “But I was just curious about the

nature of the tab fee,” he said. 

The out basket: No, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing. “A vehicle operated entirely on private property does not have to be licensed.”

It wouldn’t matter if it was in storage, but in order to take it on a public road the truck would have to be licensed, hauled to and from storage on a licensed vehicle or trailer, or a three-day trip permit would have to be used. A trip permit, Brad says, is available at vehicle licensing offices for $25 (a $4 service fee may also apply) and allows the use of a vehicle for three consecutive days beginning with the first day of use.