For 119 years, AAA Washington has been supporting our members’ best interests in Olympia, ensuring our collective voice has a seat at the table on important issues. Improving traffic safety for all road users has, and always will be, a priority for the club. This issue is ever more pressing today with the surge of traffic fatalities across Washington state — the highest in decades.
For this reason, traffic safety was a primary focus for both sides of the aisle during the 2023 legislative session. We worked with government officials, lawmakers and other stakeholders on a variety of proposed measures to address this issue.
Here are some highlights of AAA Washington’s work this legislative session:
Protecting our tow truck technicians, supporting Slow Down, Move Over: SB 5023
“Are you somewhere safe?” Those are the first words our club’s emergency roadside service dispatch team asks when one of our members calls for help. Yet our tow truck technicians are unprotected from the cars that race by on our roadways — one tow truck technician dies every six days in the U.S.
AAA Washington has been working to improve safety through public awareness of Slow Down, Move Over laws while advocating for the same protections other first responders have. Keeping our tow truck drivers safe means we are also keeping you safe on the side of the road.
Senate Bill 5023 passed the legislature unanimously and takes effect July 23, 2023. The bill authorizes tow trucks to operate rear-facing blue lights at an emergency or crash scene, red lights when reentering the roadway, and a combination of both at the scene. While red lights can be mistaken for taillights, blue lights warn you that something is happening ahead. Drivers must also reduce their speed to 50 mph or less on a highway with a speed limit of 60 mph and above if they can’t move over when approaching an emergency or work zone.
Increasing access to important education for novice drivers: SB 5583
Were you aware that Washington state does not require drivers to take driver education classes if they wait until 18 to get their license? AAA’s research shows these drivers are more at risk on the streets, but according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, cost and access to training classes are barriers, particularly for People of Color and low-income drivers.
AAA Washington worked with lawmakers to change the law to expand access through affordable self-paced driver education programs for novice drivers and their families to use online. We will continue to work with the Department of Licensing this year to help craft the rules governing the classes.
Increasing public safety and equity on our streets: HB 1513
According to Washington State Patrol data, drivers who are Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color are two to five times more likely to be stopped for vehicle maintenance and other minor non-moving violations. They are also more likely to be searched, even though law enforcement is more likely to find contraband when searching white drivers.
House Bill 1513 would have ended traffic stops for such violations to prioritize hazards like speeding and impaired, distracted and aggressive driving. AAA Washington supported the safety-related measures in the bill like grant funding to help people fix their broken equipment and the proposal to curb stops for non-moving violations.
While House Bill 1513 did not pass this year, the state authorized $750,000 in grants for intervention programs that provide repair vouchers to low-income drivers for vehicle equipment failures and similar issues. We will continue to work with the legislative sponsors and interested parties over the summer in preparation to advance the bill in the 2024 session.
AAA Washington is proud to have been a part of important, collective work to progress equity and access to traffic safety — helping to advance key issues important to our members, staff and the broader community.