Caught speeding in Federal Way? Good

Traffic violators often ask Federal Way officer Shawn Swanson if he has nothing better to do than write tickets for their failure to abide by federal, state and city traffic laws. The answer: Nope.

“We aren’t looking for drugs. We aren’t looking for warrants,” said Swanson, a traffic enforcement officer. “Most of the people we stop are Joe Citizen; he’s just going too fast.”

Four out of five Washington traffic deaths involve impaired driving, speeding or failure to wear a seat belt, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation. This is one reason why Federal Way’s officers prowl the city looking for motor vehicle violations.

It may not be glamorous, but the tickets help keep drivers and pedestrians safe from injuries, Swanson said at a Citizen’s Academy class Friday. Police use enforcement and education to teach motorists the hazards of ignoring traffic laws.

Police pay special attention to problem areas, where they know traffic violations are high. Intersections along Pacific Highway South, 21st Street, Military Road and Southwest Campus Drive, along with school zones, are hot spots for traffic infractions such as speeding and illegal lane changes, Swanson said.

An enforcement officer’s tools of choice are not typically tasers or guns. Instead, they rely on radar and lidar devices, both of which use lasers to register motorists’ velocity.

“Radars are really neat, but honestly it’s World War II technology,” Swanson said. “It’s still an excellent, excellent tool.”

Drivers generally do not realize speeding, even slightly, can severely harm or kill a child struck by a motor vehicle, he said. For the average vehicle traveling at 25 mph, it takes 74 feet to come to a complete stop, Swanson said. Six out of 10 children struck at 26 mph die, he said. That is why officers pay close attention to the city’s school zones. Anyone caught speeding in these areas is in for a ticket ranging from $189 to $784.

But police are not out to get drivers. The department offers a way to avoid high-priced tickets and learn more about why traffic enforcement officers have nothing better to do than write tickets.

Anyone issued a Federal Way traffic infraction can participate in traffic school. The cost is $175, but in return, the citation is waived, the incident does not appear on one’s driving record and insurance companies will not know about the violation, Swanson said.

In traffic school, participants learn how their driving patterns can harm other motorists, pedestrians and themselves. Most students leave the class thankful for what they were taught, Swanson said.

“They have an understanding now why we are doing what we’re doing,” he said.

Checking out how speed enforcement tools work is a bonus. Other perks to traffic school are learning where police look for traffic violators and how to challenge some speeding tickets in court. Police want citizens to know where they are stationed so that drivers slow down in those areas, Swanson said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: or (253) 925-5565.

Check it out:

On Sept. 5, the police department began its Citizen’s Academy, an eight-week program designed to educate the public on how Federal Way police operate. In the next few weeks, The Mirror will explore what it takes to be a cop.

A look into patrol, traffic enforcement, criminal investigations, the Valley Communications 911 center, K-9, and narcotics and vice operations will be explored. Keep reading for more stories on who Federal Way’s police are and why they do what they do.

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