General Policy Information
Latest Revision Date: 11/20/2013
Title 1 - Department Structure and Function
Title 2 - Department Employment
Title 3 - Employee Welfare
Title 4 - Human Resources
Title 5 - Employee Conduct
Title 6 - Arrests, Search and Seizure
Title 7 - Evidence and Property
Title 8 - Use of Force
Title 9 - Equipment and Uniforms
Title 10 - Police Facilities & Security
Title 11 - Detainee Management
Title 12 - Department Information Systems
Title 13 - Vehicle Operations
Title 14 - Emergency Operations
Title 15 - Primary Investigation
Title 16 - Patrol Operations
Effective Date: 5/16/2012
Traffic collisions are investigated to care for the injured, protect the rights of the involved parties, determine the causes of collisions so that methods of prevention may be developed, and when a traffic law violation is discovered, to gather evidence necessary to prosecute the violator.
Officers must investigate, initiate the investigation of, or assist at each collision which is brought to their attention. This responsibility applies whether the officer is dispatched to the collision by radio, on-views the collision, or is informed of the collision through a third party.
I. Responding Officer Duties
A. The duties of an officer responding to a collision include, but are not limited to:
1. Providing basic life support and attending to any injured persons until the arrival of fire department personnel.
2. Identifying potential or actual fire hazards or other dangerous conditions so that appropriate action may be taken.
3. Summoning additional assistance.
4. Protecting the scene, including property that may belong to injured persons.
5. Establishing a safe traffic flow around the scene.
6. Identifying and interviewing witnesses.
7. Investigating the collision and recording evidence.
8. Taking appropriate enforcement action.
9. Requesting assistance from a tow company if there is debris that needs to be removed from the roadway.
10. Assessing whether drivers may exchange information or if a collision report must be completed.
II. Procedures when a Collision Report is not Mandatory
A. Officers may assist citizens in the exchange of driver/witness information, scene protection, traffic control, etc.
1. To assist in the exchange of information, officers should use the Exchange of Traffic Collision Information (form 5.9).
B. If any party to a collision requests that a report be taken when there is no visible damage to vehicles or property, officers should document the incident on a General Offense Report with “Traffic” listed in the "Offenses" block.
C. Officers should carry a supply of the State of Washington Motor Vehicle Collision Reports and give this form to the parties involved in a traffic collision.
D. If no report is taken, officers should record the driver name(s), DOB(s), and vehicle license number(s) by updating the CAD call.
III. Procedures when a Collision Report is Mandatory
A. Officers shall investigate and complete a State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report whenever the collision occurs on a “highway” (SMC 11.14.245), “roadway” (SMC 11.14.530) or “way open to the public” (SMC 11.14.715), and one or more of the conditions listed below exist:
1. Injury or death of any person.
2. Damage to the property of any one person appears to exceed $700.00.
3. A hit and run vehicle is involved.
4. Enforcement action is taken against one or more of the parties involved.
5. The collision resulted in the release of hazardous material.
6. The operator of any involved vehicle is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
B. Since state law includes “bicycle” in the definition of “vehicle”, the requirements above shall also apply to collisions involving bicycles.
C. When the circumstances warrant, officers shall initiate an investigation and complete a report in any other collision not specifically defined above.
D. It is not necessary for the involved parties to complete a State of Washington Motor Vehicle Collision Report if the investigating officer completes a State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report.
IV. Taking Enforcement Action
A. Traffic Violation or Misdemeanor Incidents.
NOTE: Unless the incident was a collision involving a Department vehicle during an emergency response as described in Seattle Police Manual Section 13.030 - Emergency Vehicle Operations, enforcement action shall be taken in every non-felony case where the information is sufficient to warrant such enforcement action. In those cases where an officer concludes that a citation is not possible, officers shall clearly articulate in the narrative portion of the State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report why enforcement action would not be appropriate. (The Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS) will not routinely conduct follow-up investigations in these situations.)
1. When a driver is not available to receive a ticket, refer to Training Topic-Tickets- Delayed Issuance of Tickets.
B. Potential Felony Incidents
NOTE: Officers shall not issue any ticket if the collision is determined to be a felony.
1. Officers should refer to subsection V of this manual section for Traffic Collision Investigation Squad (TCIS) notification criteria.
2. If the collision does not require a TCIS response at the time of on-scene investigation, but may develop into a felony, officers shall refer the entire case to TCIS, requesting appropriate charges be filed in the event the incident is reduced to a misdemeanor.
V. Collisions Requiring the Presence of TCIS
A. TCIS must be called to respond to all traffic collisions (including watercraft and trains) involving any of the following circumstances:
1. The death of any person.
2. Injuries serious enough to cause death.
3. Hit and run collisions where there is substantial injury.
4. Traffic collisions involving city equipment where substantial injuries or extensive property damage has occurred.
5. Collisions occurring during a police pursuit that result in substantial bodily injury to any person.
6. Collisions involving substantial bodily injury where it appears that a driver was negligent or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
7. Any collision where there is probable cause for Vehicular Homicide, Vehicular Assault, or felony Hit and Run.
B. Substantial bodily harm or injury means that which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily part. In determining the extent of injuries, special consideration should be given for a TCIS response for persons over 70 years of age or under 5 years of age.
C. If the on-scene sergeant has questions concerning the circumstances of a collision, the TCIS on-call detective should be consulted. If the consultation results in an agreement that no response is needed, the narrative portion of the report should state that TCIS was consulted and it was determined that a response was not necessary.
VI. Vehicle Impounds and Holds
A. If an officer takes enforcement action at a scene, and has all of the information necessary to complete a report, officers shall not impound or place a TCIS hold on any vehicle.
B. When the operator of a vehicle is unable to arrange to have their vehicle removed (due to injury, intoxication or arrest), the vehicle should be impounded and a Vehicle Report (form 5.5) completed.
C. Officers shall impound and place a TCIS hold on any suspect vehicle involved in a hit and run crime where the driver has not been identified.
D. Officers shall note the following on the State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report:
1. Tow company name.
2. Storage location.
3. Any hold for investigation.
VII. Collisions Involving City Vehicles
(See Collisions Involving City Vehicles.)
VIII. Report Routing and Exchange of Driver/Property Owner Information
A. All copies of Part A and Part B of the State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report shall be submitted with all other related forms through normal report routing channels for approval and forwarding to the Data Center.
1. Involved parties will be provided with a Department business card containing the General Offense Number (GON), the investigating officer’s name, serial number, and unit of assignment, and the pre-printed Police Traffic Collision Report (PTCR) Number.
a. If a completed copy of the State of Washington Police Traffic Collision Report is requested, the officer should refer the requestor to the Public Request Unit, located on the 1st Floor of the Seattle Justice Center, 610 5th Ave.