Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road: Must Canadians pay U.S. traffic tickets and vice versa?

Question: How do cross-border citations work? If Canadian drivers are cited in Bellingham, can they avoid paying a fine simply by returning home and ignoring it? Conversely, if a U.S. driver is cited in Canada, do they avoid the fine simply by returning to the states and ignoring it? In other words, is there any cross-border collection effort or is everyone truly “home free”?

Answer: Washington and British Columbia have a reciprocity agreement for traffic citations. Generally speaking, if you receive a citation in B.C. (or in Washington state), it will be reported to the drivers’ licensing bureau of the other. You have the option to not pay the fine and/or not argue the offense in court. This is usually a bad choice. You may find that the state (or province) will then either send the bill off to collections and/or suspend your privilege to drive in that state (or province). Collections do not work well in cross-border issues. If your driving privilege is suspended in B.C., even with a Washington license, you won’t be able to drive there legally, you may find there is a warrant for your failure to appear, and it could result in an arrest.

Question: Can you tell me when the speed limit on northbound Interstate 5 just before Slater Road changed to 70 mph? My daughter says it’s always been that speed, but I beg to differ with her.

Answer: In 1973 there was an oil crisis. In 1974 the federal government passed the National Maximum Speed Law (55 mph) to address the issue. In 1995 this law was repealed and the speed limits were returned to their normal status. So, to answer your question, it has been 70 mph on I-5 northbound near Slater since 1995. Depending on your daughter’s age, it may have always been that speed.

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