Are Northwest drivers so bad we need regular re-testing?

Dec 8, 2016, 5:25 AM | Updated: 9:15 am

A story last week about poor driving habits prompted a question of whether it’s time to require testing every few years.

Under current law, you only have to take the written test once.  Even if you come from another state with a valid license, you do not have to take the written test.

Related: Basic Washington traffic laws that are broken all the time

Brad Benfield with the Department of Licensing said there’s never been a need and the assumption is drivers get better with experience behind the wheel.

“Over time, that system has worked pretty well,” Benfield said.  “As they drive, they actually get better, not worse. ”

The corrective action is taken by the State Patrol or other police agencies.

“The mechanism we have in place right now is law enforcement,” Benfield said.  “They take corrective action through citations.”

But we know, in the real world, there is relatively little enforcement on the roads. And just because we took a test, it doesn’t mean our behavior will change.

“It would certainly increase the time it takes and the cost people would incur in maintaining their licenses,” Benfield said.

It would also add to the bureaucracy at the Department of Licensing, and that would require more money.   The Legislature would have to approve the idea, and it hasn’t shown much interest in changing the rules, even when it comes to elderly drivers.

Related: Temporary plates won’t get you out of a toll bill

“There have been discussions in the Legislature about mandating testing when people reach certain ages,” Benfield said, “but those discussions have never turned into laws.”

The driver’s manual was updated this year, and the written test was beefed-up from 25 questions to 40. But maybe that’s not enough to reflect real-world information.  For example, there is no section on zipper merging and there are only a few paragraphs on merging.

Of course, drivers could take a little bit more personal responsibility on the roads and behave like they are supposed to. If we all treated other cars like they had our kids or friends and family inside, we wouldn’t be so cavalier with left-lane camping, preventing others from merging, and driving recklessly.

You don’t own the space your car occupies on the road. We all do. Drive safely. Drive responsibly. Drive kindly.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint idea or ask him a traffic question @kirotraffic on Twitter.


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Are Northwest drivers so bad we need regular re-testing?