Washington Car Insurance 101 (Compare Costs & Companies)
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UPDATED: Mar 16, 2020
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|Washington Statistics Summary||Details|
|Miles of Roadway||Vehicle Miles – 59,653
Miles of Roadway – 80,338
|Number of Registered Vehicles in the State||6,489,002|
|Most Popular Vehicle||Subaru Outback|
|Total Traffic Fatalities (2018)||Total Fatalities – 546
Speeding Fatalities – 179
DUI Fatalities – 166
|Average Annual Car Insurance Premium||Liability – $568.92
Collision – $250.13
Comprehensive – $104.11
|Cheapest Providers||Allied P&C AXCM and USAA|
Need car insurance in Washington? Our guide compares rates and companies as well as state laws and safe driving tips. Whether you are purchasing your first policy or renewing an old one, finding the right car insurance company for you can be a hassle.
What factors affect how much you pay for car insurance? How much coverage do you need? Which companies offer the cheapest rates in Washington?
You can find the answers to all of these questions and many more right here on this page. We hope to make finding the right Washington car insurance policy for you as simple as possible.
Start comparison shopping today using our FREE online tool. Enter your ZIP code to get started.
Average Washington Car Insurance Rates
Washington ranks eighth in population growth in the nation, and its strong job market and booming tourist industry bring in a lot of people. Whether you are a tourist interested in seeing Mt. Rainier National Park or a Washingtonian on their daily commute, chances are you are going to need a car.
That means you will also need car insurance. Car insurance laws and rates are constantly changing, but we are here to help keep you in the know.
In Washington, residents pay an average of $1,499 a year for car insurance, which is just slightly above the national average of $1,474. Car insurance premium rates vary depending on a variety of factors, and it is important to get as much information as you can before purchasing your policy.
Keep reading to learn all you need to know about finding the right car insurance provider for you in the Evergreen State.
How much coverage is required for Washington Minimum Coverage?
What is the minimum amount of car insurance coverage you must carry in the state of Washington?
According to the Washington State Driver Guide, the limits are as follows:
You must have an automobile liability policy or bond from a state-approved insurance or surety company that provides the following:
- $25,000 or more, payable for the bodily injury or death of one person in a collision in which only one person was injured or killed
- $50,000 or more, payable for the bodily injury or death of two or more persons in any one collision
- $10,000 or more, payable for injury to or destruction of property of others in any one collision
Keep in mind that these are minimum limits required by the state. If you are involved in a car accident, it is likely that you may need additional coverage. Keep reading to learn more about what is available to you.
Does gender and age affect my car insurance in Washington?
Does your age and gender affect the price you pay for car insurance?
The answer is yes and no.
Gender doesn’t really have much of an effect on car insurance premiums for drivers over the age of 25. Both male and female drivers over the age of 25 with equal driving records and other factors pay about the same for their car insurance.
|Company||Single 17-Year-Old Female||Single 17-Year-Old Male||Single 25-Year-Old Female||Single 25-Year-Old Male||Married 35-Year-Old Female||Married 35-Year-Old Male||Married 60-Year-Old Female||Married 60-Year-Old Male|
|Allied P&C AXCM||$3,703.82||$4,511.88||$1,642.80||$1,773.07||$1,379.41||$1,410.32||$1,282.59||$1,334.83|
|American Family Mutual||$7,444.49||$10,177.95||$1,958.34||$2,631.93||$1,958.34||$1,958.34||$1,787.39||$1,787.39|
|Farmers Ins Co of WA||$4,781.38||$5,126.04||$2,651.77||$2,761.52||$2,106.20||$2,160.58||$1,928.90||$2,179.61|
|First National Ins Co of America||$9,875.56||$10,891.02||$1,909.10||$2,081.18||$1,781.98||$1,950.41||$1,596.99||$1,871.63|
|State Farm Mutual Auto||$4,512.95||$5,714.10||$1,779.29||$2,045.65||$1,565.66||$1,565.66||$1,407.45||$1,407.45|
For drivers under the age of 25, though, this is not the case. Younger males pay higher premiums than do their female counterparts because insurance companies believe they are more likely to drive recklessly and also more likely to be involved in an automobile accident.
Keep scrolling to see what other factors affect how much you pay for car insurance.
What are the cheapest rates by ZIP code in Washington?
Sometimes just where you live can affect your car insurance rates. Some ZIP codes have higher rates than others. This may be because of high auto theft or accident rates in the area.
Some of the most expensive area codes in Washington when it comes to buying car insurance are listed in the table below.
|ZIP Code||City||WA Average Insurance Rates (Annual)|
It may also be the case that your ZIP code will save you money. The table below shows some of the cheapest area codes in Washington to purchase car insurance.
|ZIP Code||City||WA Average Insurance Rates (Annual)|
Keep reading to find out what other factors determine the cost of car insurance premiums in the state of Washington.
What are the cheapest rates by city in Washington?
As we already mentioned, sometimes just where you live can affect how much you pay for car insurance. What city you live in is one of the factors that companies use to determine your rates.
The table below shows average rates for some of the most expensive cities in Washington to purchase car insurance.
|City||Average Annual Premium|
|Whidbey Island Station||$2,512.24|
Likewise, your city may save you money on car insurance. The table below shows average rates for the cheapest cities in Washington to buy a car insurance policy.
|City in Washington||Average Annual Premium|
|Whidbey Island Station||$2,512.24|
Aside from moving, there is not much you can do about the effects of your city and/or ZIP code on your car insurance rates. There are other factors you can control, however.
What are the forms of financial responsibility in Washington?
Like in various other states, Washingtonians do have the option not to purchase minimum liability insurance. There are a few other ways to prove financial responsibility in the state:
- Liability Bond – a liability bond in the amount of $60,000 from a surety bond company authorized to do business in the state.
- Certificate of Deposit – drivers can apply for a certificate of deposit in the amount of $60,000 through the Washington Department of Licensing. Drivers will need to submit the proper form along with their deposit to the DOL.
- Self-Insurance – if a driver owns 26 vehicles or more, they may apply for a self-insurance certificate number.
Now that you know the minimum insurance coverage that is required by the state, keep reading to find out more about the costs of liability insurance and what kinds of additional coverage you might need.
How much percentage of income are rates in Washington?
How much should you expect to spend on car insurance? The answer might surprise you.
Washington has one of the highest average disposable incomes in the nation. Despite this fact, they do not spend a large amount of this on car insurance. In fact, the average Washingtonian spends only about 2 percent of their income on car insurance.
|Washington Disposable Income||$45,143||$42,975||$43,026|
|Washington Average Annual Premiums||$952||$914||$891|
|Washington Percentage of Income||2.11%||2.13%||2.07%|
|National Average Disposable Income||$40,859||$39,192||$39,473|
|National Average Annual Premiums||$982||$951||$924|
|National Percentage of Income||2.4%||2.43%||2.34%|
If you’d like to see how much of your income currently goes towards car insurance you can use the calculator below.
Keep scrolling to learn more about car insurance in the state of Washington.
What are the core coverages in Washington?
The table below shows the average insurance rates by coverage type for Washington for 2015, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).
|Coverage Types||Annual Costs in 2015|
Average insurance rates in Washington increased by about 8 percent between 2011 and 2015, a rate just below the national average.
What additional liability is available in Washington?
Washington only requires you to carry the minimum liability coverage, but you may opt to purchase more coverage. For example, you may opt for liability insurance with higher amounts of coverage or lower deductibles.
Liability insurance only protects the other person if you are involved in an accident that is ruled to be your fault. This means that any repairs done on or any damage done to your own vehicle, you will have to pay for out of pocket.
Car repairs can be very expensive. For this reason, many drivers opt to purchase more than just the required liability insurance.
Some of the more common types of additional coverage purchased by drivers are:
- Collision – this type of coverage helps to pay for damage done to your own vehicle in the event you are involved in an accident
- MedPay – this type of coverage helps to pay for medical bills for anyone involved in a car accident, including ambulance rides and treatment when necessary
- Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist – this type of coverage helps to protect you in the event that you are involved in an automobile accident with a driver who does not have insurance or who does not have enough insurance
- Comprehensive – this type of coverage helps to protect your vehicle in the case of a natural disaster or other non-collision damage
- Personal Injury Protection – this type of coverage helps to pay for lost wages and medical payments
Keep reading to find out what other types of coverage are available to you as a resident of the Evergreen State.
What add-ons, endorsements, and riders are available in Washington?
If you decide that you need more than the minimum coverage required by the state, there are a number of different options available to you as additional coverage. Some of the most popular add-ons include:
- Gap Insurance – this type of coverage helps you pay your car in the event that you are in an automobile accident and you owe more on your vehicle than it is worth
- Roadside Assistance – this add-on covers things like mobile repair and towing services
- Vanishing Deductible – this add-on reduces your deductible by a certain amount (usually $50–$100) at the beginning of the policy and then the same amount annually until it reaches zero
Always check with your insurance company to see what add-ons, endorsements, and riders are available to you and make sure to take into account price and need when adding these things on to your insurance policy.
What is Washington’s car culture?
Residents of Washington state are generally very interested in nature, outdoorsy, and eco-conscious. This way of life is reflected in the cars they choose to drive.
Four-wheel drives are very popular in the state, which ranks the highest in the nation for Subaru ownership. One out of every 10 people in the Seattle-Bellevue-Everett area owns a Subaru, a rate much higher than the national average of one out of every 35.
Washington also leads the nation in the number of electric cars on the road. In 2013, the state set a goal to have 50,000 electric cars on the road by 2020. In 2019, they reached that goal, a year ahead of their goal deadline.
Keep reading to learn more.
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Best Washington Car Insurance Companies
Now that you’ve learned a little bit about what kinds of coverage are available to you, it’s time to do some research on the companies that provide car insurance policies in the Evergreen State.
Determining the best car insurance company to fit your needs isn’t always easy. We are here to help.
We have done the comparisons between the available car insurance companies in your area and have compiled all of that research here to help you make an informed decision.
Keep reading to find out more about the best car insurance companies available to you in the Evergreen State.
What are the financial ratings of the largest car insurance companies in Washington?
One of the first things you should look at when considering a car insurance provider is the company’s financial rating. A company with a good financial rating is less likely to declare bankruptcy or reject your claim if you need to file one.
The table below shows the financial ratings for some of the top car insurance companies in the state of Washington, according to A.M. Best, a reputable credit rating organization with a strong focus on the insurance industry.
|Leading Insurance Providers||A.M. Best Ratings|
|Allstate Insurance Group||A+|
|American Family Insurance Group||A|
|Farmers Insurance Group||A|
|Hartford Fire & Casualty Group||A+|
|Liberty Mutual Group||A|
|PEMCO Mutual Insurance Co||B++|
|State Farm Group||A++|
Click here to find out more information about A.M. Best ratings and how they are determined.
Which car insurance companies have the best ratings in Washington?
J.D. Power also keeps statistical information on car insurance companies in order to help consumers make more informed decisions about where to purchase their automobile insurance policies.
The following table shows the J.D. Power ratings for auto insurance companies in the Northwest Region, which includes Washington.
|Company||Consumer Rating||Overall Customer Satisfaction Rating|
The overall customer satisfaction rating is based on a score with 1000 points being the highest. The consumer rating is based on a five point system.
J.D. Power bases its ratings for each company based on different criteria such as overall satisfaction, rental experience, and claim servicing.
Which car insurance companies have the most complaints in Washington?
Two things to look at when searching for a car insurance provider are the company’s loss ratio and their complaint ratio.
|Name of Company||Loss Ratio (2017)||Complaint Ratio (2017)|
|Allstate Insurance Group||55.27%||0.5|
|American Family Insurance Group||78.07%||0.79|
|Farmers Insurance Group||59.54%||0|
|Hartford Fire & Casualty Group||73.22%||4.68|
|Liberty Mutual Group||66.42%||5.95|
|PEMCO Mutual Insurance Co||66.30%||0.14|
|State Farm Group||66.82%||0.44|
The loss ratio represents the amount of claims companies settle compared to premiums, earned through customers’ monthly payments.
A high loss ratio means that a company is paying out more in premiums while a low loss ratio means they are paying out less. A company in the middle of this spectrum is best.
The complaint ratio is the number of complaints received per 100,000 policies written. A high complaint ratio may be a red flag when looking for a car insurance provider.
In the event that you need to file a complaint against your car insurance provider, you may do so by contacting the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
What are the cheapest car insurance companies in Washington?
While price isn’t always the deciding factor in the decision to purchase a car insurance policy, it is usually a top priority along with great customer service.
|Company||Average Annual Premium||Compared to State
Average Annual Premium ($2,986.69)
|American Family Mutual||$3713.02||+$726.33|
|Farmers Ins Co of WA||$2962.00||-$24.69|
|First National Ins Co of America||$3994.73||+$1008.04|
Keep in mind, however, that these are only guidelines and that actual prices depend on a variety of factors.
Keep reading to learn more about what those factors are and how they can help you save money on your car insurance premiums.
Does my commute affect my car insurance rate in Washington?
Does your commute time affect your car insurance premiums?
The short answer is yes.
While there are many factors that go into determining your insurance premium, you will generally pay more for insurance if your commute is longer simply because of the fact that you spend more time behind the wheel.
|Insurance Providers||10-Mile Commute/|
6,000 Annual Mileage
12,000 Annual Mileage
If you’ve ever purchased a car insurance policy in the past, you may have noticed that most companies will ask you how long your commute is and if your vehicle is mostly used to travel to and from work.
The reason for this is that the more time you spend on the road, the more likely you are to be involved in an accident or other events that will require you to file an insurance claim.
Can coverage level change my car insurance rate with companies in Washington?
As a general rule, the more coverage you carry, the more you will pay for your car insurance premium. By shopping around, however, and comparison shopping you can save a lot of money.
The following table shows some average rates for top companies in Washington based on coverage level.
Always be sure to check with your insurance company to see if you qualify for any discounts, as well, as this may help determine what level of coverage you can afford.
How does my credit history affect my car insurance rate with companies in Washington?
It may come as a shock to many drivers that car insurance companies take your credit rating into account when determining your policy pricing. The reason for this is that insurance companies believe that drivers with higher credit ratings are less likely to submit a claim if involved in an accident.
Check out the table below to get an idea of just how your credit rating may affect your policy price.
Your credit score is not the only thing you will want to keep an eye on, though, when looking to save money on car insurance. Your driving record can also affect how much you pay for car insurance.
How does my driving record change my rates with car insurance companies in Washington?
In the Evergreen State, safe driving can save you a lot of money on car insurance. On the other hand, just one ticket or DUI offense can leave you paying huge premiums for years to come.
The table below gives some insight into how certain driving violations can affect your policy pricing.
|Company||Clean Record||With One Speeding Violation||With One Accident||With One DUI|
As you can see, keeping your driving record clean can save you hundreds of dollars a year on car insurance.
Which car insurance companies are the largest in Washington?
There are many car insurance providers in the state of Washington, but some possess a larger market share than others. Market share is the percentage of the overall market that is controlled by a single company.
|Company||Direct Written Premiums||Loss Ratio||Market Share|
|American Family Insurance||$178,684||78.07%||3.45%|
|Hartford Fire & Casualty||$127,979||73.22%||2.47%|
|PEMCO Mutual Insurance Co||$287,313||66.30%||5.55%|
A high market share is a good indicator that the company is financially stable and has a strong growth trend. Both of these characteristics usually translate into lower policy premiums overall.
How many car insurance companies are available in Washington?
New competitors are entering the car insurance market all the time due to the industry’s strong growth trend. That is good news for you as a consumer since more competition means lower prices.
Car insurance companies in the state of Washington fall into two categories:
- Domestic Companies – these companies have been formed under the laws of the state of Washington
- Foreign Companies – these companies have been formed under the laws of any state, district, territory, or commonwealth of the United States other than the state of Washington
At the current time, as a resident of Washington, you have about seven domestic insurance providers and over 850 foreign insurance providers to choose from.
Now that you have learned all you need to know about insurance providers and what you can do to keep your policy rates low, let’s take a look at the rules of the road in the Evergreen State.
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It is important to know the rules of the road in the state you live in. This can help you to avoid a traffic citation as well as help to keep you and your passengers safe while driving.
Whether you are cruising down scenic US 101 past Olympic National Park or taking your family to see the Space Needle at the Seattle Center, you will want to be up to date on Washington’s rules of the road.
Keep reading to find out more.
What are the car insurance laws in Washington?
We have already told you that Washington law requires all drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance coverage. There are also many other laws that govern car insurance, and how it is used in the state of Washington.
If you are caught driving without insurance in the Evergreen State, you could be facing a fine of up to $550. Failure to pay this fine in full can result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
Driving is considered a privilege in the state of Washington, and that privilege can be taken away by the state if you fail to follow the rules of the road.
Keep reading to find out what those laws are, how they apply to you, and how this information can help you in your search for the best automobile insurance.
How Washington Laws for Insurance Are Determined
Washington laws for mandatory minimum insurance and other driving matters such as licensing laws are determined by the Washington State Department of Licensing.
In Washington, insurance companies are required to get prior approval before using rates, which are first filed and approved by the state insurance department.
The state also decides financial responsibility and tort laws and has a large say in how liability is determined in the event of an automobile accident.
Knowing what is expected of you as a driver can save you both time and headaches as well as save you money when purchasing car insurance.
Imagine you are driving down one of the many scenic routes in Washington, and a rock flies up and puts a chip in your windshield. A minor inconvenience such as this can sometimes lead to costly repairs. Will you be paying out of pocket, or will your insurance cover it?
Well, chances are in the state of Washington, if you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you will be paying for the repairs yourself. The reason is that while some states have passed laws requiring insurance companies to pay for glass repairs, Washington is not one of them.
In the Evergreen State, all motor vehicles on the roads must be equipped with a windshield and working windshield wipers. All windshields and windows of the vehicle must be made of safety glass.
While Washington does not have specific windshield guidelines concerning the size and placement of cracks or chips in the windshield, it is illegal for any motorist to drive a vehicle on Washington roadways that is in a condition that is considered unsafe.
Washington also has some rules that apply to window tinting and vision blockage:
- Windshield tint must be non-reflective and limited to the top six inches of the windshield.
- Tint applied to any other window must allow greater than 24 percent light transmittance through the combined film and glass.
- Reflective tint must not reflect more than 35 percent.
- Dual exterior side mirrors are required on all vehicles with tint on the rear window.
- Mirrored and metallic tints are not permitted.
- Black, red, gold and yellow tint is not permitted.
- Posters, signs, and other types of non-transparent materials are not permitted on the windshield, side windows, or rear window.
- Hood scoops, stickers, visors, and other aftermarket items other than the windshield wipers and hood ornament are permitted to extend over two inches into the area measured from the top of the steering wheel to the top of the hood or front fenders.
- Stickers required by law are permitted.
Violations of any of the above regulations could result in a fine of up to $250.
If you have had more than your fair share of traffic citations, automobile accidents, and/or car insurance claims, you may be considered a high-risk driver.
Normally, high-risk drivers are required to purchase SR-22 insurance, which is not available through all companies, so it may take some looking around to find coverage.
If you have an extremely poor driving record, however, it may be hard for you to find car insurance coverage by traditional means. If you find yourself in this situation, you should contact the Automobile Insurance Plan for help.
To be eligible to apply through this plan, you must have a vehicle registered in the state of Washington, and a Washington issued driver’s license. You will also need to provide proof that you were unable to obtain auto insurance through the regular marketplace in the last 60 days.
The Automobile Insurance Plan, also known as AIPSO, is a non-profit organization created by the Washington State Legislature to assist in providing car insurance coverage for high-risk drivers.
While Washington does have a program in place to assist high-risk drivers, the state does not have a program to help those who are unable to purchase automobile insurance because of financial hardships.
While public assistance is not available for car insurance in the Evergreen State, you can find the lowest rates available to you by shopping around and comparing pricing. You can also save money on car insurance by maintaining a clean driving record and checking for any discounts available to you.
Automobile Insurance Fraud in Washington
There are various types of insurance fraud punishable by law in the state of Washington. While you may be doing everything legally, you should be on the lookout for agents or companies that are not.
Always make sure your insurance carrier is licensed in the state of Washington and watch out for any of the following more common fraud schemes:
- Pocketing – Instead of turning an insurance policyholder’s premium payment into the company, an agent simply “pockets” it and leaves the consumer without coverage.
- Twisting – An agent persuades the life insurance policyholder to change policies after the first year that it is in effect, in order that they can continue to receive the highest commission rates that typically are paid during that first year.
- Churning – An agent tries to sell an additional policy to a person who already has a life insurance policy with cash value. However, the cash value of the old policy is depleted to pay the premium of the new policy, requiring the policyholder to come up with money to pay for both policies, or allowing the coverage to lapse.
- Sliding – An agent “slides” extra, more expensive coverage into a low-commission life insurance policy. The extra coverage typically includes high-cost accidental death, guaranteed renewable term, or motor club membership.
- Understatement of risk, or “cleansheeting” – An agent omits pertinent health information from a consumer’s health insurance application to make a sale which might not otherwise meet the insurance company’s risk-management requirements.
- Fraud rings – An agent that is part of a fraud ring tries to restrict you to going to one particular doctor, auto repair shop, or attorney.
False insurance claims are another type of fraud that is punishable by law in the Evergreen State. If a false written account is made for a claim exceeding $5000, the author may be guilty of a Class C Felony.
You can learn more about auto insurance fraud and how to report it by visiting the website for the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
You can also contact the Office of the Insurance Commissioner:
- By Phone – 1-800-562-6900
- By Mail – Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner
P.O. Box 40255
Olympia, WA 98504-0255
- By Fax – 1-360- 586-2018
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations sets the period of time someone has to take some kind of legal action. As is usual in most states, Washington has a statute of limitations when it comes to making a car insurance claim.
According to Hardwick & Pendergast P.S.:
While there are certain exceptions, generally, Revised Code of Washington Section 4.16.080 sets the state’s statute of limitations for a personal injury claim at three years. This means you have a deadline of three years to file a lawsuit after your motor vehicle accident.
While you technically have three years to file an automobile insurance claim, it is usually in your best interest to file one as soon as possible. Most insurance companies prefer claims to be made directly after an accident occurs.
Keep scrolling to read more about the rules of the road in the Evergreen State.
State Specific Laws
Most states have their own unique driving laws, and Washington is no exception to this rule. Some of these rules and regulations are applicable statewide, while others are local ordinances.
For example, according to Insider Magazine’s list of bizarre driving laws, it is illegal to hug someone while driving in the Evergreen State.
The state of Washington, along with its list of older and more obscure laws, is always working towards new rules of the road to ensure driver safety on the state’s many roadways. Keep reading to learn more about the rules of the road in Washington.
What are the vehicle licensing laws in Washington?
Unfortunately, registering a motor vehicle in the state of Washington is not always easy. Depending on how old your vehicle is, you may or may not have to report the odometer reading. This is usually only required for vehicles that are less than 10 years old.
If your vehicle model is 2009 or later, it must pass an emissions test. A bill of sale or weight slip may also be required.
It is always best to contact your local state licensing office to find out everything you will need before showing up to register your vehicle or renew your plates.
If you have just moved to the Evergreen State, you have 30 days to get your license and then apply to register your vehicle in the state.
Driver’s licenses and vehicle licenses are issued in separate offices in the state of Washington. Fees vary, and everyone’s situation is different. It is recommended you contact your local state licensing office to find out everything you need before showing up to apply.
What is a REAL ID?
REAL IDs are required in order to board an airplane flight or enter a federal building. They are not required for things such as driving, voting, and other everyday activities.
While the TSA will accept a standard Washington state driver’s license or ID card to board a commercial plane until Washington state’s REAL ID law takes effect on Oct. 1, 2020, it is recommended that all Washingtonians update their driver’s license to become REAL ID compliant in order to avoid complications with traveling in the future.
You can visit the website for the Department of Homeland Security for more information.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Washington state law requires that all drivers carry minimum liability insurance or some other form of financial responsibility at all times while operating a motor vehicle. Those minimum limits are listed earlier in this article.
Failure to provide proof of auto insurance if you are pulled over while driving can result in a fine of around $450 dollars in the state of Washington if you are convicted. You may also lose your driving privileges until certain conditions are met for reinstatement.
The only exceptions to Washington’s minimum insurance requirements are as follows:
- Motor Scooters and Mopeds
- Specially licensed horseless carriage vehicles over 40 years old
- State or publicly owned vehicles
- Common or contract carriers with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
While these types of vehicles are not required to carry minimum liability insurance, there may still be consequences for drivers found guilty of negligence behind the wheel.
Teen Driver Laws
Teenagers between the ages of 15–17 in the state of Washington are eligible to apply for a driver’s permit through Washington’s Graduate Driver’s License Program.
Teens who have taken a driving education course may apply at the age of 15. Teens who have not must wait until they are 15 1/2.
Teen permit-holders are required to log 50 hours of driving practice time with a driver who has had their license for at least five years. Ten of those driving hours must be at night. Once this is finished, the teen may schedule a driving test at a Washington testing station.
If the teenager passes the test, they can then apply online or in person for their intermediate license. If applying in person, you will need to bring the following with you:
- Proof of completion of a state driver training course
- Proof of identity and Social Security Number
- Parental supervision and approval — or, if they’re not with you, a signed and notarized copy of a Parental Authorization Affidavit
Teenage drivers who possess an intermediate license must abide by the following rules:
- For the first six months, you may not carry passengers under the age of 20, with the exception of immediate family members. For the next six months, your passengers are restricted to no more than three people under the age of 20 who are not members of your immediate family.
- For the first 12 months, you are not allowed to drive between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., unless you are accompanied by a licensed driver 25 years of age or older. The only exceptions are for agricultural purposes and assisting with the transport of farm products and supplies under the supervision of a farmer.
- Absolutely no cell phone use is allowed, even with a hands-free device unless for emergency use.
Teenagers will keep their intermediate license until they are 18 years old and eligible to apply for a full unrestricted Washington driver’s licence.
There are violations for breaking any of the rules that apply to a teen with an intermediate license:
- First Offense – a warning letter would be sent to your parents if you get a ticket for violating a restriction or rule of the road or are involved in a crash
- Second Offense – your license would be suspended for a period of six months or until the age of 18, whichever of the two comes earlier
- Third Offense – your license would be suspended until the age of 18
Older Driver’s License Renewal Procedures
These days, as people are living longer and healthier lives, we find that there are a lot more seniors driving on our nation’s roads than ever before. Because of this, many states are changing laws and regulations to help ensure the safety of older drivers and those who share the road with them.
The Evergreen State has found an interesting way to ensure that its seniors are driving safely by making sure their vision isn’t impaired.
In Washington, drivers are required to renew their driver’s license every five years. All in-person renewals include a vision test. For this reason, the Evergreen State requires all drivers over the age of 70 to renew their driver’s license in person. This helps to ensure the safety of both the state’s older and younger drivers.
Unfortunately, for new residents of Washington, getting a driver’s license is not as easy as it is in many other states. If you have just moved to the Evergreen State, you have 30 days to get your license and then register and license any vehicles you own in the state.
In order to qualify for a Washington State Driver’s License, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 16 years of age
- Have successfully finished and passed a driver’s training school driver education course (You can visit the Driver’s Knowledge website for more information and practice tests.)
- Be a resident of Washington State
- Have not been convicted of any driving or traffic violations in the past six months
If all of these qualifications are met, you will be issued a driving permit which you will hold for six months before you are eligible to apply for a full unrestricted Washington License.
You must also complete and log 50 hours of driving time while holding your permit. Permit holders cannot be convicted of any alcohol or drug related violations while holding their permit.
To get your license you must pay an application fee of $35 and $45 for the license itself. This includes one chance to pass the written and driving exams. An additional $35 fee applies for each time the tests must be retaken. To replace a license that is either lost or stolen, the fee is $20.
License Renewal Procedures
Renewing a Washington state driver’s license costs $45 and must be done online or in-person every five years. You may renew your license up to one year before it expires and up to 60 days after it expires.
If a person waits until more than 60 days past the expiration date of their license to renew it, the fee then goes up to $55 for renewal. If your license has been expired for six years or more, you will have to restart the licensing process from the beginning.
If you are under the age of 18 or over the age of 70, the rules for license renewal are a little different. If you fall into one of these categories, you can look above for information on licensing procedures for teenagers and seniors.
You can find more information on how to renew your Washington State Driver’s License at the Washington State Department of Licensing.
Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
What is NOTS?
The Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS) is sometimes referred to as the “point system.” It is a program designed by the Department of Motor Vehicles to keep negligent operators of motor vehicles off the roads by assigning them points to their license for infractions such as speeding, reckless driving, driving without insurance, etc.
Washington does not use a traditional point system, but that’s not to say that they don’t keep track of moving violations because they do, and getting too many of them could result in your license being suspended. Some of the more serious moving violations in Washington are DUIs, reckless driving, and driving without insurance.
What are the rules of the road in Washington?
Like all states, Washington has established its own rules of the road in order to keep its residents and visitors safe. Knowing these rules can help you avoid tickets and other violations and also help you keep your auto insurance rates down.
Keep reading to find out what you need to know about the rules of the road in the Evergreen State.
Fault Versus No-Fault
When it comes to fault versus no-fault, Washington is actually a comparative fault state.
What does this mean?
According to Davis Law Group:
These laws mean there is no strict threshold of fault that a claimant must meet in order to bring a claim. While personal injury claimants in other states can be completely barred from pursuing a claim if they are found to be even 1 percent responsible for their own injuries, Washington’s laws allow claimants to pursue a claim even if they were up to 99 percent responsible.
In the state of Washington, in most cases involving a motor vehicle accident, a judge will decide which percentage of the responsibility belongs to the victim.
For example, if someone is rear-ended by another car while not wearing a seat belt, a judge may rule that because they were not wearing a seat belt they share 25 percent of the responsibility for their damages and therefore the victim is only entitled to recover 75 percent of total damages.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws
Most states have safety laws regarding the use of seat belts in motor vehicles, and Washington is no exception. In the Evergreen State, anyone over the age of 8 or over 4’9″ tall must be wearing a seat belt while traveling in a motor vehicle.
Any children under the age of 8 or under 4’9″ tall must be in a booster seat or child safety restraint system. The Washington State Booster Seat Law was put into place in 2007 as a safety precaution. Violations can result in fines of at least $112 per child. The law also states that:
- Children under the age of 13 should be in the backseat when appropriate to do so
- Children over the age of 8 or over 4’9″ tall must use their seat belts correctly or continue to use a booster
- Vehicles with lap-only seat belts are exempt from the booster seat laws
According to Drive Safely:
Depending on their age, older vehicles are, for the most part, still required to have seat belts and safety restraints. Any automobile manufactured after January 1, 1968, must be equipped with lap-type seat belts in permanent passenger seats and shoulder-harness safety restraints in the two front seat positions.
A seat belt ticket in the state of Washington comes with a hefty $124 fine. Washington is also a mandatory seat belt law state meaning that you can be pulled over just for not wearing your seat belt even if you have committed no other infractions, so always remember to buckle up.
Keep reading to learn more about the rules of the road in the Evergreen State.
Keep Right and Move Over Laws
Keep Right and Move Over laws have been implemented in several states to help keep drivers and emergency crews safe. Washington is no different.
In the Evergreen State, the Keep Right law states that vehicles should stay in the right lane unless passing another vehicle, avoiding an obstruction, or when driving on a three-lane highway. You can be cited for a traffic infraction for consistently driving in the left lane and impeding the flow of traffic.
You can learn more about Washington’s Keep Right Law by visiting the website for the Washington State Legislature.
Washington’s Move Over law states that vehicles approaching an emergency vehicle or work zone should proceed with due caution and move over or change lanes if it is safe to do so. If changing lanes is not possible, drivers should reduce their speed to 10 miles under the posted speed limit.
An emergency vehicle zone or work zone is the adjacent lanes of the roadway, and includes two hundred feet before and after the emergency or work zone vehicle. Emergency vehicles include all of the following:
- Authorized emergency vehicles using audible or visual signs
- Tow trucks making use of visual red lights
- Vehicles providing roadside assistance using warning lights
- Police vehicles displaying a flashing, blinking, or alternating emergency light
- Stationary or slow-moving highway construction or maintenance vehicles, solid waste vehicles, or utility service vehicles making use or flashing or warning lights
Failure to obey Washington’s Move Over laws can result in a $214 fine, and this fine is usually not able to be dismissed or reduced.
Like all states, Washington roads are subject to speed limits. Generally, the following speed limits apply when driving through the Evergreen State:
- 70 mph on rural freeways and interstates
- 60 mph on state highways and some freeways
- 50 mph on county roads
- 25 mph on city and town streets
- 20 mph on residential streets in Seattle
It is important to remember that these are only guidelines. Always pay attention to the speed limit signs and adjust your speed accordingly. Speeding can result in traffic citations and higher insurance premiums.
If you are caught speeding in Washington where the posted speed limit is 40 mph or lower, you may receive one of the following fines:
- 1–5 mph over the speed limit – $125
- 6–10 mph over the speed limit – $136
- 11–15 mph over the speed limit – $166
- 16–20 mph over the speed limit – $207
- 21–25 mph over the speed limit – $259
- 26–30 mph over the speed limit – $310
- 31–35 mph over the speed limit – $361
- More than 35 mph over the speed limit: $423
If you are caught speeding in Washington where the posted speed limit is over 40 mph, you may receive one of the following fines:
- 1–5 mph over the speed limit – $105
- 6–10 mph over the speed limit – $125
- 11–15 mph over the speed limit – $156
- 16–20 mph over the speed limit – $187
- 21–25 mph over the speed limit – $218
- 26–30 mph over the speed limit – $259
- 31–35 mph over the speed limit – $310
- 36–40 mph over the speed limit – $361
- More than 40 mph over the speed limit – $423
It is important to keep in mind that these fees only include the ticket. If you are caught speeding and opt to just pay the fine, the infraction is considered committed in the Evergreen State.
This means that it will be reported to the Department of Licensing, where it can be accessed by your insurance company, meaning your rates will probably go up considerably.
These days more and more people are using their personal vehicles to make money through the sharing economy. According to Forbes, nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population participates in some form of economic sharing.
The sharing economy companies include ridesharing services such as Lyft, Uber, and Sidecar and delivery services such as Door Dash, Uber Eats, Roadie, and Favor.
How does ridesharing affect the price of your car insurance?
At the present time, most personal car insurance policies do not cover losses that occur while participating in the sharing economy. In fact, most companies rule it out explicitly.
While some sharing companies offer insurance to entrepreneurs that cover liability in the event someone is injured, or property is damaged during a transaction, most companies require sharing entrepreneurs to have a commercial policy to cover their property and liability.
Always be sure to check with your insurance agency to find out if they provide coverage before participating in a sharing economy company. Also, check with the company you will be working for to find out if they provide coverage.
If not, you may be responsible for purchasing a separate business policy to protect you while you are using the vehicle for business purposes.
In 2015, the Evergreen State implemented a law regulating the ridesharing sector of the sharing economy. You can read more about this law by visiting the website for the Washington State Legislature.
Automation on the Road
Whether we like it or not, we are fast moving towards the future, and technology is advancing rapidly. Autonomous vehicles are already being made and tested, and manufacturers are hopeful they will be ready for city streets in just a few years.
The process of laws and regulations related to autonomous vehicles, however, is moving much more slowly. Only a few states have regulations regarding autonomous vehicles, and many of them only apply to truck platooning.
Government leaders in Washington are taking a cautious but hopeful approach to the idea of autonomous vehicles on the road pointing out some of the obvious benefits:
- Vehicles would not need to remain with a driver and could be shared, reducing carbon emissions
- The vehicles are programmed to obey speed limits, so this would reduce accidents caused by speeding and traffic citations
- Drunk driving incidents would be reduced
- Shared vehicles would be in motion and parked less, reducing the need for parking
- Increased freedom and mobility for people who are unable to drive
In March of 2018, the Washington State Transportation Commission ordered to convene an executive and legislative workgroup to begin to develop recommendations for policy on autonomous vehicles on public roads in the Evergreen State.
You can read about their progress by visiting the website for the Washington State Transportation Commission.
Keep scrolling to learn more about safety laws in the Evergreen State and how they may impact how much you pay for your car insurance.
What are the safety laws in Washington?
Roughly 90 percent of all automobile accidents occur because of human error. For this reason, like all states, Washington has a number of laws in place to protect the safety of its citizens when it comes to operating a motor vehicle.
In the next section, we’ll take a look at some of these laws and discuss how you can help keep you and your passengers safe as well as keep your insurance rates down.
By law, in the state of Washington, it is illegal for a person to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08 percent or higher, but a person can still be convicted of a DUI in the state if their BAC is lower by displaying signs that are consistent with a person who is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
If you are arrested for a DUI in the Evergreen State, you have 20 days to request an administrative hearing or review in order to challenge the suspension of your driver’s license.
According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, there were over 25,000 arrests for DUIs in Washington in 2017.
If you are convicted of a DUI in the state, you may be facing some pretty strict penalties.
- First Offense – misdemeanor conviction, jail time from one day up to 364 days, fines ranging from $940.50 to $5,000 plus court costs, two to five years probation, required ignition lock for one year after license reinstatement, and a license suspension of 90 days.
- Second Offense – gross misdemeanor conviction, jail time from 30 days up to 364 days, fines ranging from $1,195.50 to $5000 plus court costs, probation of at least five years, possible mandatory treatment program, required ignition lock for five years after license reinstatement, and a license suspension of two to three years depending on BAC.
- Third Offense – jail time from 90 days up to 364 days, fines ranging from $2,045.50 to $5,000 plus court costs, probation of at least five years, mandatory treatment program, required ignition lock for 10 years after license reinstatement, and a license suspension of three to four years depending on BAC.
If you are convicted of a DUI in Washington, you will also be required to show proof of the purchase of SR-22 insurance, a type of insurance for high-risk drivers, before you can reinstate your license.
SR-22 insurance is expensive and not offered by all companies, so it is best to always have a designated driver or call a taxi if you need to. Driving under the influence is not worth the penalties or the amounts of money you will inevitably lose in future insurance premiums.
Marijuana-Impaired Driving Laws
While Washington is one of the few states that has legalized marijuana for both medical and recreational use, it is still prohibited to drive while under the influence of marijuana, and if you are convicted, the penalties are the same.
The Washington State Liquor & Cannabis Board has ruled that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with five ng/ml of THC or more in your blood if you are 21 or older. If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive with any amount of THC in your blood.
The board says that it can take three hours or more for a person’s THC levels to drop to a legal level for driving after using marijuana, depending on a person’s gender and body size.
They recommend waiting five hours after using marijuana and 10 hours after using edibles before operating a motor vehicle.
If you are pulled over, and a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence of marijuana, the officer may request a blood test. This is done by blood draw at a police station or medical facility.
According to a study done by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, 44 percent of drivers admitted to driving two hours after using marijuana.
Distracted Driving Laws
These days it seems like everyone has their phone with them at all times. Driving while texting or browsing social media can be very dangerous, though.
The Evergreen State has very strict laws when it comes to distracted driving. State law was updated in 2017.
It is now illegal in Washington to use a personal electronic device while driving. It is even illegal to hold the device while stopped in traffic or to eat or put on makeup while driving.
Washington was actually the first state to pass a no texting while driving law nearly a decade ago. Being convicted of violating this law will get you a fine of $136 for a first offense and $234 for a second offense. It is also reported to your insurance company and will appear on your driving record.
The Evergreen State takes driving safety very seriously. Keep reading to learn more.
Driving Safely in Washington
Each state is different when it comes to driving safety and rules of the road. Many different factors affect your experience in each state, such as commute times, road congestion, and car ownership.
Many of these same factors also influence how much you pay for auto insurance.
How many vehicle thefts occur in Washington?
If you live in Washington and you own a Honda, you may have some cause for concern. As you can see from the table below, Hondas are the most commonly stolen car in the Evergreen State.
|Vehicle||Total Thefts (2016)|
|Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee||362|
|Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)||562|
|Ford Pickup (Full Size)||745|
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes, where you live can affect your car insurance prices. Part of this is based on auto theft rates in the area.
|City||Motor Vehicle Thefts (2018)|
|Lake Forest Park||23|
You can use the table above to search for your city to see how likely you are to be the victim of auto theft and whether or not you may benefit from additional car insurance coverage in the case that your car is stolen.
You can visit the website for the Federal Bureau of Investigation to learn more about auto thefts in your area.
How many road fatalities occur in Washington?
Unfortunately, road fatalities happen every day and in every state. By learning more about them and what causes them, however, you can help to protect yourself.
Keep reading to learn more about road fatalities and their causes in the Evergreen State and how you can avoid them.
Most Fatal Highway in Washington
The Washington section of I-5 is considered by most to be the most dangerous road in the entire state of Washington. Part of the reason for this is that it is one of the busiest roads in the state.
Each year at least 25 fatal car crashes occur on this section of highway in the Evergreen State.
To date, this road has seen 258 fatal automobile accidents along with another 245 non-fatal ones.
Fatal Crashes by Weather Condition and Light Condition
While human error does account for the majority of car accidents, certain conditions such as bad weather and lighting conditions can also affect your likelihood of being involved in a crash.
|Weather Condition||Daylight||Dark, but Lighted||Dark||Dawn or Dusk||Other / Unknown||Total|
Regardless of weather conditions or light conditions, always make sure to take road conditions into account when driving and remember to drive defensively. Doing so can help to keep you and your passengers safe and your rates down.
Fatalities (All Crashes) by County
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes, where you live can affect how much you pay for car insurance. One way to understand why this is the case is to take a look at car crash statistics for the different counties in your state.
As a general rule, the more dangerous it is to drive in your county, the higher your insurance premiums will be.
Passenger vehicles make up the vast majority of fatal car crashes in the state of Washington. There are around 80 fatal motorcycle accidents in the state per year, as well.
|Type||Number of Fatalities|
|Drivers Involved in Fatal Crashes||817|
|Passenger Vehicle Occupant Fatalities (All Seat Positions)||345|
|Bicyclist and other Cyclist Fatalities||14|
Keep scrolling to learn more about fatal car crashes in Washington.
Fatalities by Person Type
Anyone can be involved in a car accident, but sometimes whether you are driving, riding, or a pedestrian can increase or decrease your chances of being involved in an accident.
|Light Truck – Pickup||52||56||67||54||63|
|Light Truck – Utility||42||46||43||64||64|
|Light Truck – Van||10||17||17||19||25|
|Light Truck – Other||0||1||1||3||3|
|Bicyclist and Other Cyclist||11||7||14||17||14|
The vast majority of accidents involve a passenger vehicle. Motorcycle fatalities are the second most common, while accidents involving pickup trucks follow behind those.
Fatalities by Crash Type
Most fatal car crashes in the Evergreen State are single-vehicle accidents.
|Crash Type||Number of Fatalities (2017)|
|Involving a Roadway Departure||306|
|Involving an Intersection (or Intersection Related)||122|
|Involving a Rollover||101|
|Involving a Large Truck||77|
As you can see from the table above, many fatal car crashes in the state involve speeding or intersections. Taking the time to slow down and look both ways can save you time and money. It may also save you and your passengers’ lives.
Five-Year Trend for the Top 10 Counties
The table below shows the five-year trend for fatalities in the top 10 counties in Washington.
|Top Ten Counties||304||322||386||374||404|
|All Other Counties||132||140||165||162||161|
If you live in one of these counties, you can expect your auto insurance rates to be slightly higher than residents of counties with lower auto fatality rates.
Fatalities Involving Speeding by County
Washington’s speed limit laws are put into place to keep drivers safe on the state’s roadways. Violations of these speed limits can result in not only fines and jail time, but also death.
The table below shows automobile fatalities in the Evergreen State involving excess speeding.
It is important to always obey speed limits and to slow down for adverse weather conditions. Doing so can keep you from getting a traffic citation and also reduces your risk of being involved in a fatal automobile accident.
Fatalities in Crashes Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Driver by County
The table below shows all the automobile fatalities in Washington involving an alcohol-impaired driver by county.
No matter what county you live in, always remember to assign a designated driver or be prepared to call a cab or a friend if needed. There is no excuse for drunk driving, and doing so can put your life and the lives of others at risk.
Teen Drinking and Driving
In the state of Washington, if you are under the legal drinking age of 21 years old and you are stopped by an officer and found to be driving under the influence of alcohol with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02–.08 percent your license will be suspended for at least 90 days.
If you are under 21 and are arrested for having a BAC level of .08 percent or greater, you will be facing the same fines, and penalties as someone over 21 would face for the same offense.
You will also be required to show proof of financial responsibility in the form of an SR-22 insurance policy before the Department of Licensing will reinstate your license.
In 2017, Washington police officers arrested 167 teens for driving under the influence.
|Teens and Drunk Driving||Data|
|Under 21 Alcohol-Impaired Driving Fatalities per 100,000 Population||0.7|
|Higher/Lower Than National Average (1.2)||Lower|
|DUI Arrest (Under 18 years old)||121|
|Rank in US||29th|
|DUI Arrests (Under 18 years old) Total per Million People||74.26|
Washington ranks 29th in the nation for underage DUI arrests.
Unfortunately, fatality rates for teens in the Evergreen State who drink and drive are slightly higher than the national average.
According to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, there were 0.7 underage drinking fatalities per 100,000 people in 2017. This does put Washington below the national average of 1.2 deaths.
EMS Response Time
When an accident happens, time is critical. According to the Washington State Department of Health:
Ultimately, the mission of any systemic approach to care comes down to this simple maxim: Get the right patient to the right resources in the right amount of time.
Unfortunately, where an accident occurs can have a huge impact on how fast help will arrive.
|Type of Road||Time of Crash to Notification||Arrival||Arrival at Scene to Hospital||Time of Crash to Hospital|
|Rural||5 minutes||14 minutes||45 minutes||1 hour, 3 minutes|
|Urban||4 minutes||8 minutes||33 minutes||35 minutes|
As you can see, whether a crash occurs in a rural or urban area can mean a huge difference in EMS response times in the Evergreen State.
What is transportation like in Washington?
While most of the major cities in Washington do provide public transportation services and have ridesharing and taxis readily available, the vast majority of Washingtonians get from point A to point B in personal vehicles.
Keep reading to learn more about the driving habits of the residents of the Evergreen State.
The average number of cars per household in Washington is two. The most popular types of vehicles owned by Washingtonians are Subarus and other all-terrain vehicles.
The second average number of cars per household in Washington is three.
While the state is moving fast towards reducing carbon emissions through ridesharing, autonomous vehicle research, and electric car initiatives, the majority of the state’s residents still prefer to use personal vehicles to get to where they need to go.
On average, Washington residents spend about 26 minutes daily commuting to and from work, which is just above the national average of 25 minutes.
Additionally, about 3.4 percent of all Washington workers have commutes that take more than 90 minutes. These types of long commutes are sometimes called super commutes.
You can visit Numbeo’s Traffic Index to learn more about commute times and traffic trends in your area.
Insurance companies do take commute times into account when setting premium rates. Generally, the longer your drive, the more you are likely to pay. This makes sense since the more time you spend on the road, the more likely you are to be involved in an automobile accident.
As mentioned earlier, most of the major cities in Washington have some form of public transportation. Despite this fact, in 2018, 71 percent of Washington workers drove themselves to work.
9.76 percent of Washington’s workforce carpooled to work while only 6.97 percent took advantage of public transport to get to and from their place of employment.
The more cars on the road, the more chances you have of being involved in an automobile accident. More cars on the road also mean more traffic congestion.
According to INRIX Analytics Company, American commuters lose 97 hours a year to traffic congestion at a cost of $87 billion.
Since 84 percent of Washingtonians live in urban areas, traffic can be an inevitable battle in the Evergreen State. The city of Seattle ranks sixth in the nation for worst traffic congestion. According to INRIX, Seattle drivers sit in traffic for 138 hours a year.
Knowing the flow of traffic in your city and the best times to avoid can help you get around quickly and easily. Visit the Tom Tom Traffic Index to learn more about traffic trends in your area.
Now that you know all you need to know about Washington driving laws, you are ready to take the next step in becoming a safe and legal Washington driver by finding the right car insurance provider for you.
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