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AGLO 1978 No. 4 - February 23, 1978
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

RAILROADS ‑- MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- LICENSES ‑- HIGHWAYS ‑- OPERATION OF RAILROAD TRAINS

A person need not have been issued a Washington state motor vehicle operator's license in order to operate a railroad train within the state.

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                                                                February 23, 1978

Honorable Geraldine McCormick
State Representative, 5th Dist.
W. 1829 Northridge Court No. 4
Spokane, Washington 99208                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGLO 1978 No. 4

Dear Representative McCormick:

            By recent letter you have requested an official opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Must a person have been issued a Washington state motor vehicle operator's license in order to operate a railroad train within the state?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 46.20.021 provides, in material part, as follows:

            "(1) No person, except those hereinafter expressly exempted shall drive any motor vehicle upon a highway in this state unless such person has a valid driver's license issued under the provisions of this chapter. . . ."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   Admittedly, it is physically possible for a railroad train to be driven upon a public highway to the limited extent of its passage over a grade level crossing.  Even so, however, a driver's license is not required for the simple reason that a railroad train is not a motor vehicle within the meaning of RCW 46.20.021,supra.  The reason that it is not will readily be found in RCW 46.04.320 which defines the term as follows:

            "'Motor vehicle' shall mean every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires,but not operated upon rails."  (Emphasis supplied)

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


PHILIP H. AUSTIN
Deputy Attorney General

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