WA’s new vehicle registration law reinvents itself for modern world

Dec 1, 2022, 1:03 PM | Updated: 2:04 pm
Washington State law will now allow you to take a photo of your vehicle registration and store it on your cell phone. (Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP) (Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
(Photo by JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

Washington state will now allow you to take a photo of your vehicle registration and store it on your cell phone.

“Both your registration and your proof of insurance can be stored electronically,” said King County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Tim Meyer. “Acceptable electronic formats include an image on a cellular phone or any other type of portable electronic device.”

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The law he’s talking about is RCW 46.16A.180(1) (d), which requires all drivers to present registration and licensing information to the police when requested. But, the registration certificate required by this section may be provided in either paper or electronic format now as the state works to phase out physical copies of the registration information as it increases the risk of theft.

Car prowlers often steal personal documents to forge new ones, so the idea behind taking a quick picture of your car’s registration and storing it in a cell phone is the safer idea. Just make sure to carry your phone with you in the event you are driving and get pulled over.

Acceptable electronic formats include the display of electronic images on a cellular phone or any other type of portable electronic device.

So how do law enforcement agents make sure to verify the information you are providing digitally is correct?

They use a program called SECTOR — Statewide Electronic Collision and Ticket Online Records.

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“We have barcode scanners, not unlike those of us that use a self-checkout at the grocery store. And so if somebody tries to play with [the photo of the registration bar code], or try to manufacture their own, that barcode had better match.” Meyer said. “And we’ll figure out pretty quickly if it doesn’t.”

There is no app to download. You just use your cell phone and snap a shot of your vehicle registration and store it in a secure file.

Meyer noted that just because photos of registration and insurance are now allowed, drivers still need their physical driver’s license.

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WA’s new vehicle registration law reinvents itself for modern world