Traffic-Related Laws & Offenses

INTRODUCTION

In Pennsylvania, most traffic- and vehicle-related laws and regulations are found in different sections of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, technically known as “Title 75″ of the Pennsylvania statutes. Traffic violations are generally divided into three categories. “Moving violations,” like speeding or running a red light, are offenses that deal with how cars are driven upon public roads and how traffic is supposed to behave. “Non-moving violations,” like driving with an expired inspection sticker or having an open alcohol container in the car, deal more with administrative and procedural aspects of vehicles. “Serious” offenses, like DUI or hitting somebody with your car, usually could be considered “moving violations” but cover conduct so much more serious than moving violations that they have their own separate category in the Vehicle Code. Moving violations potentially involve fines of over $150, license suspensions, and as many as 5 disciplinary “points” on a person’s driving record. Non-moving violations can involve similar fines and suspensions as moving violations but do not impose any points. Serious offenses potentially carry jail time in addition to much heavier fines and license suspensions and usually cover conduct that a person could possibly get sued for if someone is hurt or someone’s property is damaged. Convictions for any offense may have negative implications for your car insurance policy. You should check your insurance policy to get specifics, but convictions usually mean that the cost of your insurance will go up.

On this web page, you’ll be able to read about the general aspects of driving and licensing laws in Pennsylvania. You can read about what it really means to have “points” on your license, and what a suspension or revocation of license entails. You can also read about many (but not all) of the traffic laws people are cited for breaking, what conduct they prohibit, and what consequences follow from a conviction. We start by explaining speeding and traffic-control device (“3111″, or “thirty-one eleven”) laws, because they’re the most commonly issued types of tickets. The list goes on and explains more traffic laws, going in the order that they’re listed within the Vehicle Code. We’ve split the different types of traffic laws up into their own sections.

While this website will try to explain thoroughly the more common aspects of Pennsylvania traffic law, it certainly does not serve as a substitute for the advice of an experienced lawyer. We hope this site is helpful and enjoyable to you, and please do not hesitate to contact us at 215-997-1000 if you want to talk about your ticket!

THE “POINTS” SYSTEM

Many traffic offenses carry, upon conviction, a certain number of “points.” Points are a BAD thing to have on your license. The more you have, the more negative consequences that follow. PENNDOT’s stated purpose in having the points system is to help improve driving habits and to ensure safe driving. Here’s how accumulating points on your license can affect your driving privilege, if you’re 18 years old or older:

  • When you reach 6 or more points for the FIRST time:
  • You’ll receive a written notice in the mail from PENNDOT telling you to schedule to take a 20-question “special written points examination” at a DMV center of your choosing. There is no “performance” aspect of this test. You must schedule the test within the 30-day period noted on the notice; if you don’t, your license will be suspended until you pass the test. Along with this notice, you’ll receive a booklet of information to study for the exam, including:
  • Knowledge of safe driving practices,
  • Knowledge of PENNDOT sanctions, and
  • Knowledge of related safety issues.
  • The exam covers some topics you might not expect or may never have come across, such as carseat requirements for children of certain ages. Therefore, it is very important to actually study the information in the booklet you receive.
  • If you pass the test:
  • 2 points will be removed from your driving record.
  • If you fail the test:
  • Your license will be suspended if you don’t pass the test within the 30-day time limit. You must then reschedule to take the test again. So, if you took the first test early enough to allow you enough time to reschedule a second test, and pass the second test within the 30-day time limit, your license won’t be suspended.
  • If your license gets suspended, your driving privilege will be restored upon passing the test, no matter how many times you had to take it to pass.
  • When you reach 6 or more points for the SECOND time:
  • You will be required to attend a PENNDOT hearing, at which the hearing examiner (not a judge) will review your driving record and determine your punishment, if any. You’ll get a notice in the mail telling you when and where the hearing will be.
  • Possible outcomes of the hearing (one or more may be imposed):
  • Your license gets suspended for 15 days. After your 15 days are up, your driving privilege will be restored, and 2 points will be removed from your record.
  • You will be ordered to take a special “on-the-road” driver’s exam within 30 days of the hearing.
  • If you pass the test within 30 days of the hearing:
  • 2 points will be removed from your record.
  • If you fail:
  • Your license will be suspended until you pass.
  • No punishment will be imposed on you.
  • The disadvantage of this outcome is that no points will be removed from your license as a result of the hearing.
  • If you fail to attend your hearing:
  • Your license will be suspended for 60 days.
  • When you reach 6 or more points for the 3RD, 4TH, 5TH (and so on) time:
  • You will be required to attend a PENNDOT hearing, at which the hearing examiner will review your driving record. You’ll get a notice in the mail telling you when and where the hearing will be.
  • Possible outcome:
  • Your license may be suspended for 30 days. You don’t get any points removed upon the completion of your suspension.
  • No action will be taken (unlikely). Again, no points will be removed.
  • When you accumulate 11 points or more:
  • Your driver’s license will automatically be suspended. The length of suspension depends on how many times your license has been suspended in the past.
  • If it’s your first suspension:
  • 5-day suspension per point.
  • If it’s your second suspension:
  • 10-day suspension per point.
  • If it’s your third suspension:
  • 15-day suspension per point.
  • If it’s your fourth, fifth, sixth (and so on) suspension:
  • One year suspension.
  • Driving 31 m.p.h. or more over the speed limit:
  • You will be required to attend a PENNDOT hearing, at which the hearing examiner will review your driving record. You’ll get a notice in the mail telling you when and where the hearing will be.
  • Possible outcomes (one or both will be imposed):
  • 15-day license suspension.
  • Driving record is reduced to 5 points upon completion of the suspension.
  • Special on-road driver’s examination.
  • No points are removed for successful completion of the exam.
  • If you fail to attend the hearing:
  • 60-day suspension.

Points aren’t necessarily stuck on your record forever. Here’s how they’re REMOVED over time:

  • Three points are removed for every 12 consecutive months a person drives (from the date of the most recent VIOLATION, not the date you were convicted) without a conviction that resulted in either points, license suspension, or license revocation.
  • Once a driving record is reduced to zero and stays at zero for an uninterrupted year, any accumulation of points is considered the “first accumulation” of points for future purposes.

If you’re UNDER 18 years old, these special rules will apply IN ADDITION TO the consequences listed above:

  • If you accumulate 6 or more points, OR if you are convicted of driving 26 m.p.h. or more over the speed limit:
  • Your license will be suspended for 90 days, if it’s the first such occurrence.
  • If your license had already been suspended before, the suspension will be for 120 days.

HOW LICENSE SUSPENSIONS WORK

If a person’s driving privilege is to be suspended, a written notice will be mailed to officially inform the driver of his or her suspension. The driver may appeal the suspension to his or her county’s Court of Common Pleas within 30 days of the mailing date of the notice. Once the driver receives the notice, his or her license must be returned to the Bureau of Driver Licensing by the effective date of the suspension listed on the notice or to the authority delegated by the Department. In addition to serving the suspension or revocation, the appropriate restoration fee must be paid before the license will be returned. After the driving privilege is restored, the driving record will show 5 points, regardless of the number of points which appeared on the record before the license was suspended.

Am I free to drive in other states if my license has been suspended in Pennsylvania? The National Driver Register records information on Pennsylvania drivers under suspension and makes this information available to other state authorities. In addition, Pennsylvania is a member of the Driver License Compact, an interstate compact formed to facilitate the exchange of information concerning license suspension violations of non-residents to their home states. All but four states (GA, MI, WI, and TN) recognize this compact. Therefore, if your driving privileges are suspended in Pennsylvania but you live in another state it is likely that you could also end up being suspended there as well.

How can I get my license back? Following a license suspension notification, contact PENNDOT directly and request a “Restoration Requirements” letter. This letter lays out the details of your suspension and what you need to do to reinstate your driving privileges. In addition, there may be a limited interim driving privilege attainable in some situations. If it is necessary to drive to your place of work or study, or to receive medical treatment, you may be able to apply for an Occupational Limited License. Moreover, Probationary Licenses are also available, but only to those drivers whose licenses have been suspended or revoked for at least a five-year term. In order to apply for these restricted licenses there are forms to fill out and possible hearings. Therefore, it is important that you contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney to assist you in the process and ensure that your driving privileges are resumed as soon as possible.

MOVING VIOLATIONS

Speeding — Exceeding Posted Speed Limit (Section 3362)

    • Overview:
    • Speeding laws may seem simple and straightforward, and you might feel like you’ll automatically be found guilty if you try to fight your ticket. In fact, speeding laws are much more complicated than most other traffic laws. Unfortunately, many people have simply pled guilty to speeding tickets to “just get it over with and move on” when they could have actually been found not guilty, or could have received a lighter penalty. The government (that is, the police and the government unit responsible for the road) actually has to follow a few rules of its own before it can convict you of speeding, and an attorney can carefully examine your traffic citation for any mistakes the government may have made.
    • Just like with any other crime or offense, the government must prove, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, that you are guilty of what you’re being accused of. Your lawyer can try to create that reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind by using evidence and arguments that are specifically tailored to your case.
    • Even if the government has done everything right in giving you a speeding ticket, an attorney can still negotiate with the police and the judge to try to get you a reduced penalty. For example, an attorney can often convince a police officer to agree to change the client’s “55 in a 35 zone” ticket to a “40 in a 35 zone,” reducing the amount of the fine and the number of “points.”
    • The law that DRIVERS must obey:
    • A driver must not exceed the speed limit that’s posted.
    • Occasionally, a road or expressway will not have a posted speed limit. If no speed limit signs are posted, you should follow these “default” speed limits:
    • 25 m.p.h. for areas with houses close to the road (residential districts).
    • 35 m.p.h. for business areas (urban districts).
    • 55 m.p.h. for everything else, like expressways or open rural roads.
    • How speeding tickets are generated, and rules the government must obey in generating them:
    • Placement of speed limit signs:
    • Speed limit signs must be placed no more than a half mile apart, but only for speed zones UNDER 55 m.p.h.
    • In a 65 m.p.h. zone only, speed limit signs must be placed on the highway at each entrance ramp (interchange).
    • Although some speed limits might seem ridiculously low or high, the government can’t just set a certain speed limit because they “feel like it.” The government has to do an “engineering and traffic investigation” before it sets or changes a speed limit.
    • The police are NOT allowed to time someone’s speed within 500 feet after a speed limit sign indicating a decrease in speed limit. This rule doesn’t apply to active school zones or active work zones, though.
    • How much faster than the speed limit can you go without getting pulled over and convicted of speeding?
    • For speed limits of 55, 60, or 65 m.p.h.:
    • Can’t get convicted unless your recorded speed is 6 or more m.p.h. over the speed limit, regardless of what type of device was used to measure your speed.
    • For speed limits of LESS THAN 55 m.p.h.:
    • If a radar gun is used:
    • Can’t get convicted unless your recorded speed is 6 or more m.p.h. over the speed limit.
    • If a speed trap or speedometer is used:
    • Can’t get convicted unless your recorded speed is 10 or more m.p.h. over the speed limit.
    • SPECIAL RULES FOR ACTIVE SCHOOL ZONES AND ACTIVE WORKS ZONES:
    • Regardless of what type of device is used to measure your speed, you can get pulled over and convicted for speeding in an active school zone or active work zone even if you’re only going 1 m.p.h. over the speed limit for that zone.
    • Common devices the police use to measure your speed (as noted on the speeding ticket):
    • Radar guns
    • Only officers (troopers) from the Pennsylvania State Police may use radar guns to give you a speeding ticket. Local and regional police departments may use radar guns to determine how fast you’re going (like those “YOUR SPEED” boxes with digital displays), but they can NOT use radar to give you a ticket.
    • Police must have the radar guns calibrated for accuracy at least once per year. If more than a year passes since the last calibration, that particular radar gun may not legally be used to issue speeding tickets until it is calibrated again.
    • Following behind your car (a.k.a. “Clocking”)
    • TIP: If you see a police car following you, go the speed limit!
    • Any police officer can “eyeball” your speed by comparing your rate of speed to his rate of speed (according to his car’s speedometer). The officer must follow you for at least three-eighths of a mile before he can pull you over.
    • For example, if the officer drives behind you at a consistent 35 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone for at least 3/8 of a mile, and your car is getting further away from his car, he can logically conclude that you were going faster than 35 m.p.h., pull you over for speeding, and charge you with going 35 m.p.h. in a 25 m.p.h. zone (even though you were going faster; he can’t know EXACTLY how fast you were going unless he has superhuman senses).
    • Police must have their speedometers calibrated for accuracy at least once a year (same as radar guns). If more than one year passes since the last calibration, that particular speedometer may not legally be used to issue speeding tickets until it is calibrated again.
    • Manual Speed Traps
    • Any police officer can use a stopwatch-like device that times how long it took your car to travel a pre-measured distance. Usually, officers will use pre-painted white lines on the road so it’s easier for them to see when your car crosses the “start” and “finish” lines. Police cars have computers inside that calculate the average speed the car was travelling at between those two lines.
    • Because the speed calculations rely on mathematical formulas and the police officer’s reaction time, the calculated speed is less likely to be accurate for a short speed trap than for a long speed trap. Traffic experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have suggested that speed traps that are shorter than 200 feet have a high probability of leading to incorrect speed calculations.
    • Sometimes police will fly in an aircraft (either a helicopter or an airplane) over a highway. They use binoculars or telescopes to look at vehicles, use the stopwatch-type machine to calculate the average speed of faster-moving vehicles over long-distance speed traps, and use radio to tell police officers on the ground to pull over the vehicles whose average speed has been calculated to be sufficiently above the speed limit to be worth giving a ticket to.
    • Some brand names of devices police use are VASCAR, accuTRAK, and Robic. You may notice one or more of these noted on a speeding ticket you receive.
    • Police must have the stopwatch devices calibrated for accuracy at least once every 60 days (much more often than radar guns). If more than 60 days passes since the last calibration, that particular device may not legally be used to issue speeding tickets until it is calibrated again.
    • Automatic Speed Traps
    • The most widely-used brands of automatic speed traps are “ENRADD” and “ESP” (Excessive Speed Preventer; no, police can’t use extrasensory perception!).
    • An ENRADD system consists of two “U-shaped” transmitters that are each three feet wide. The police officer sets them up so they stand directly across the road from each other. The two prongs of each transmitter connect wirelessly to each other to form two invisible laser beams that are “tripped” when cars travel through them. A computer system times how long it took for a car to travel the three feet from the first laser to the second laser, and then uses a mathematical formula to calculate the speed in miles per hour. The transmitters then wirelessly transmit that number to a computer in the police officer’s car, which displays it for the officer and locks on to cars that travel above a certain speed that the officer sets.
    • An ESP system works in a similar way, but instead of “U-shaped” transmitters it employs a set of two rubber hoses laid across the road and taped down at a premeasured distance apart from each other. The rubber hoses are hooked up to a computer system which wirelessly transmits speed calculations to the police officer’s car.
    • Because this type of system eliminates the potential for human reaction time error that manual speed traps have, they tend to measure speeds very accurately and are hard to disprove.
    • For more information about the ENRADD system, check out www.enradd.com.
    • Police must have the automatic speed trap devices calibrated for accuracy at least once every 60 days (much more often than radar guns). If more than 60 days passes since the last calibration, that particular device may not legally be used to issue speeding tickets until it is calibrated again.
    • Penalties for conviction
    • If it was a 65 m.p.h. zone and NOT an active work zone:
    • Fine & costs:
    • Around $137.00 (costs sometimes vary by a few dollars),
    • PLUS $2 for each m.p.h. you went over the limit (but the first 5 m.p.h. over are “free” and don’t carry any extra fine).
    • For example, if you get convicted of going 75 m.p.h. in a 65 m.p.h. zone, your fine will be $137 + ($2 ´ 5 m.p.h. beyond “5 over”) = $137 + $10 = $147.
    • PLUS possible points (see below)
    • If it was any speed limit NOT 65 m.p.h., and NOT an active work zone or active school zone:
    • Fine & costs:
    • Around $126 (costs sometimes vary by a few dollars),
    • PLUS $2 for each m.p.h. you went over the limit (but the first 5 m.p.h. over are “free” and don’t carry any extra fine).
    • PLUS possible points (see below)
    • POINTS for convictions (applies to all speed limits; but see special rules for active work/school zones):
    • Going 1-5 m.p.h. over the limit:
    • 0 points.
    • While the police can’t pull you over for only going 5 over (unless you’re in an active work/school zone), they can agree to lower your alleged speed to only 5 over to save you some money and points. This is one reason why it’s important to talk to an attorney about your ticket.
    • 6 to 10 m.p.h. over:
    • 2 points.
    • 11 to 15 over:
    • 3 points
    • 16 to 25 over:
    • 4 points
    • 26 to 30 over:
    • 5 points
    • 90-day (or 120-day, for 2nd & subsequent convictions) license suspension if you’re under 18
    • 31 or more over:
    • 5 points, AND you must attend a PENNDOT hearing.
    • 90-day (or 120-day, for 2nd & subsequent convictions) license suspension if you’re under 18
    • For details on the hearing, see the section above, labeled “The ‘Points’ System.”
    • ACTIVE SCHOOL ZONES — Special Penalties:
    • Active school zones always have speed limits of 15 m.p.h.
    • For going 16 to 25 m.p.h. (that is, 1 to 10 m.p.h. over) in an active school zone:
    • 3 points, AND
    • Fine & costs of about $119.50 plus $2 per each m.p.h. over 5 m.p.h. over the limit. In other words, the first 5 m.p.h. over the limit don’t carry any extra fine over the $119.50.
    • For going 26 m.p.h. (11 m.p.h. over) or faster in an active school zone:
    • 3 points, AND
    • Fine & costs of up to about $584.00. This number includes the “$2″ multiplier mentioned above.
    • If it’s at least your second time being convicted of speeding in a school zone (regardless of how much over 15 m.p.h. you were going):
    • The above-mentioned penalties,
    • PLUS a 60-day license suspension.
    • ACTIVE WORK ZONES — Special Penalties:
    • For going 1 to 10 m.p.h. over the specially-posted active work zone speed limit:
    • Same fines and points as for regular speeding.
    • For going 11 m.p.h. or more over the specially-posted active work zone speed limit:
    • Same fines and points as for regular speeding,
    • PLUS a 15-day license suspension.

Driving Too Fast for Conditions (Section 3361)

    • What’s prohibited:
    • Driving faster than is “reasonable and prudent” under the conditions, having regard to:
    • Actual and potential hazards, and
    • How far behind other cars the car is.
    • Exceeding the posted speed limit is not necessarily a violation of this section. By the same token, you can be convicted of this section even if you were going under the posted speed limit. It all depends on the various conditions.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
    • 2 points on your license.
    • PLUS a 15-day suspension if it was in a work zone and you caused an accident because you were going too fast.

Driving Too Slow (Section 3364)

    • What’s prohibited:
    • Driving so slow as to “impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.”
    • Driving slower than a minimum posted speed limit (except when it’s necessary to do so to ensure safe operation, or to comply with another law).
    • Since the actual speed in miles per hour the car was travelling is not relevant to this offense, the citation does not need to specify the speed at which the car was travelling.
    • For example:
    • A driver was convicted of driving too slow in a case where two police officers testified that a car was going about 17 m.p.h. in no-passing speed zones of 35 and 45 m.p.h., that 18 to 20 cars were trailing the lead car, and that the operators of those vehicles were honking their horns and raising their fists at the lead car.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
    • No points on your license.

Obedience to Traffic-Control Devices (“Thirty-one eleven,” or “No-points ticket” – Section 3111)

    • The law:
    • Basically, a driver must follow “the rules of the road.” A “traffic-control device” can be anything; a stop sign, a traffic light, a speed limit sign, a one-way sign… the list goes on. The law is kind of a catch-all and doesn’t really cover any offenses that aren’t covered by other traffic laws. You might ask: then why does it exist? Read on!
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Total fine & costs of about $109.50.
    • Zero points on your license.
    • When it’s used:
    • Each police department has its own internal policies relating to how they charge offenses, and police will behave differently based on their own personalities and the policies of their departments. Often, local police departments in urban or suburban areas will readily issue you a 3111 for less serious traffic offenses. Other departments might not agree to lower your offense to a 3111 unless you schedule a hearing and show up in person. Other departments may outright refuse to lower your charge to a 3111 and will instead lower your charge from a 4-point offense to a 2-point offense, for example. Typically, the Pennsylvania State Police are the least willing to lower a ticket all the way to a 3111.
    • Possible reasons it is used:
    • Saves everybody time and money:
    • Judges and police officers, like most people, don’t want to make more work for themselves. Let’s say that a police officer clocks you at 51 m.p.h. in a 35 m.p.h. zone. If you were to be convicted of that, you’d get 4 points on your license and a fine of around $150 (ouch!). That’s obviously something you want to avoid. You may want to try and fight the ticket by pleading not guilty and scheduling a hearing in front of the local judge. But that requires you taking off of work or school to go to the hearing, and whatever time you need to prepare your case. So, the officer, interested in making one less hearing that he has to prepare and show up for, wants to get it all over with as soon as possible. He knows that since he already cut you a break by writing you a “3111” ticket, which carries NO points (instead of 4) and about $40 less in fines, you’re much less likely to try to fight the ticket. You don’t have to take off of work or school to go to the hearing, and he doesn’t have to prepare a case against you.
    • In other words, you’re much more likely to plead guilty to the 3111 than the speeding charge. When you plead guilty, it means the case is over with for good. It’s less work for you, the police officer, and the judge, and you face less punishment. It’s a situation that everyone can agree with.
    • If you plead not guilty to the 3111 ticket, the police officer may decide to revoke his “3111 offer” and change the charge against you to the more serious option that he could’ve chosen (like charging you with 51 in a 35).
    • Officer is in a good mood:
    • This is why it’s important to always be polite and respectful to the police. You may just catch a break, if his department’s policy allows it.
    • Officer has a weak case against you:
    • Let’s say you’re driving at 80 m.p.h. on an expressway that has a 55 m.p.h. speed limit. The officer fumbles his speed timing equipment and can’t actually clock how fast you were going. He’s pretty sure though, because of his experience, that you were going well above the speed limit, and he pulls you over. He knows he can’t prove you were speeding, so he doesn’t issue you a speeding ticket. Instead, he issues you a 3111 in the hopes that you’ll just plead guilty and just pay the fine. Just another reason why it’s important to talk to a lawyer before you plead guilty to anything.

Disregarding Traffic Control Signals (Traffic Lights) (Section 3112)

    • What it prohibits:
    • Driving through a red light.
    • Driving through a blinking red light without stopping first.
    • Driving through a broken traffic light without stopping first.
    • Turning right on red when there’s a sign that says “No Turn On Red.”
    • Can you ever turn LEFT on red?
    • Yes, but only in a rare situation. You can only turn left on red when you’re on a one-way road and you’re at an intersection with another one-way road that faces left. If you come to a full stop at your red light and make sure no cars are approaching the intersection on the other road, you may turn left on the red light. Such intersections usually will only have stop signs, though, so the situation rarely presents itself.
    • Penalties for a conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50, AND
    • 3 points on your license.

Tickets Given by Automatic Red-light Cameras (Section 3116)

    • Pennsylvania has authorized the use of automatic red-light cameras, but only in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Parking Authority is the agency who is actually responsible for issuing these types of tickets.
    • They’re being used at these intersections:
    • Center City:
    • Broad Street & JFK Blvd. (north side of City Hall)
    • Broad Street & South Penn Square (south side of City Hall)
    • Northeast Philadelphia:
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Grant Ave.
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Red Lion Road
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Cottman Ave.
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Southampton Road
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Welsh Road
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Rhawn Street
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Levick Street
    • Rising Sun Ave. & Adams Ave.
    • Roxborough/Manayunk
    • Henry Ave. & Walnut Lane
    • North Philadelphia:
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & Mascher Street
    • Roosevelt Blvd. & 9th Street
    • Broad Street & Hunting Park Ave.
    • Kensington:
    • Kensington Ave. & Clearfield Street
    • Aramingo Ave. & York Street
    • Thompson Street & Lehigh Ave.
    • Port Richmond:
    • Richmond Street & Allegheny Ave.
    • Richmond Street & Castor Ave.
    • Aramingo Ave. & Castor Ave.
    • South Philadelphia:
    • Broad Street & Washington Ave.
    • Broad Street & Oregon Ave.
    • 34th Street & Grays Ferry Ave.
    • West Philadelphia:
    • 58th Street & Walnut Street
    • How the system works:
    • The city can’t just install these cameras where they want, when they want. PENNDOT has to approve them first.
    • A camera may not be used to issue any tickets during the first 60 days after it’s installed. The city can send you a warning, though.
    • The city must post easily-visible signs indicating the presence of an automatic red-light camera before the intersections.
    • If you drive through one of those intersections after the light turns red, cameras take a picture of your license plate and mail the registered owner a ticket. Of course, the owner is often not the driver, like when a teenager is driving his parents’ car. The owner can plead not guilty and try to prove that he/she was not the person driving the car at the time of the violation. If that’s proven, the government is not allowed to force the owner to “turn in” the actual driver. The hearing isn’t in front of a local judge; rather, it’s in front of a DMV hearing examiner.
    • Penalty for a conviction:
    • Recognizing the inherent unfairness in having a machine give a vehicle owner a ticket because it assumes the owner was driving the car at any given time, the government has set forth reduced penalties for red light violations given by automated cameras.
    • Fine & costs of $100.
    • NO points on your license.
    • Does NOT become part of your driving record.
    • Insurance companies can NOT use it to raise your rates.

Failure to Stop at Stop Sign (Section 3323(b))

    • What it prohibits:
    • Failing to fully stop before the clearly marked stop line at the stop sign.
    • Failing to fully stop before the crosswalk, if no line is present.
    • Failing to fully stop at the point closest to the intersecting roadway where the driver has a clear view of approaching traffic, before entering the road (regardless of whether there are lines or crosswalks). If there’s a line or crosswalk, you might have to actually stop twice before proceeding through the intersection, so you can make sure you have a clear view of the road.
    • Stop signs in parking lots or otherwise on private property — Do I have to stop at them?
    • You technically cannot be given a ticket by police for failing to stop at a stop sign in a parking lot, so long as the stop sign was not posted through PENNDOT’s (or the local government’s) official approval process. Most stop signs on private property, while not technically enforceable, serve to prevent some chaos. Imagine going shopping for the holiday season in Montgomeryville at a bunch of stores that didn’t have any stop signs in their parking lots!
    • Although you can’t get ticketed for running a private stop sign, it’s still definitely a good idea to stop at them. Some stop signs on private property may have actually been approved by the government. Still, if you run one of these unapproved stop signs and end up causing an accident or injury, you can bet that you’ll get sued (if your insurance doesn’t fully cover it) and your insurance rates will go through the roof.
    • At a 3-way or 4-way stop sign intersection, who goes first if two cars get to their stop signs at the same time?
    • Where it’s too close to tell who got to the stop sign first, a driver must yield to the driver on his/her right. For example, a northbound driver would have to yield to a westbound driver who got to the intersection at the same time.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50, AND
    • 3 points on your license.

One-Way Roadways and Rotary Traffic Islands (Section 3308)

    • What it prohibits:
    • Driving the wrong way on a one-way road.
    • Driving clockwise (left) around a traffic circle.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
    • No points on your license.

Following Too Closely (Section 3310)

    • What it prohibits:
    • Following another vehicle “more closely than is reasonable and prudent,” taking into consideration these factors:
    • Speed of traffic
    • Amount of traffic
    • Conditions of the road
    • Example:
    • Following a truck at a distance of 3 feet behind it, while going 65 m.p.h.
    • Evidence:
    • Police don’t have to actually measure the distance; they can simply testify that you were following more closely than was “reasonable and prudent” in the situation.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50, AND
    • 3 points on your license.

Making an Illegal U-Turn (Section 3332)

    • What it prohibits:
    • Making a u-turn where there’s a “no u-turns” sign.
    • However, if you’re on a highway, and are suffering a personal emergency, you will be permitted to make a safe u-turn at an area labeled “Emergency and Authorized Vehicles Only.”
    • Making a u-turn that was unsafe or interfered with other traffic.
    • Making a u-turn on a curve.
    • Making a u-turn near an upslope or downslope, where the vehicle could not be seen by other drivers within 500 feet.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50, AND
    • 3 points on your license.

Failing to Use a Turn Signal; Unsafe Changing of Lanes (Section 3334)

    • What you must do:
    • Turns & lane changes at speeds of less than 35 m.p.h.:
    • Put on your turn signal at least 100 feet in advance of the turn.
    • Turns & lane changes at speeds of greater than 35 m.p.h.:
    • Put on your turn signal at least 300 feet in advance of the turn.
    • If you’re parked on the street:
    • Put on your signal prior to re-entering traffic.
    • What if one or more of my turn signals is broken?
    • For a left turn, the driver must extend his/her left hand and arm out the driver’s window, horizontally, to the left.
    • For a right turn, the driver must extend his/her left hand and arm out the driver’s window, upward.
    • If you’re braking, and your brake lights don’t work, the driver must extend his/her hand and arm out the driver’s window, downward.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
    • No points on your license.

Disobeying a Railroad Crossing Signal Indicating Approach of Train (Section 3341)

    • Where there are no gates (3341(a)):
    • Must stop car within 50 feet but more than 15 feet from the nearest rail, and wait until it’s safe to move forward again, if:
    • A clearly visible signals indicates the approach of a train;
    • A flagman gives such a signal;
    • A train within 1500 feet of the crossing blows its horn and is too close to the crossing or moving too fast for it to be safe for the car to cross; or
    • An approaching train is plainly visible and is is “hazardous proximity” to the crossing.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of anywhere between $139.50 and $284.50.
    • 2 points on your license.
    • Where gates or barriers are at the crossing (3341(b)):
    • A driver must NOT:
    • Drive through, around, or under any railroad crossing gate or barrier while the gate or barrier is closed.
    • Start to drive a vehicle through, around, or under a gate or barrier at a railroad crossing while the gate or barrier is being opened or closed.
    • Penalties for conviction (!!!):
    • Fine & costs of anywhere between $284.50 and $584.50, AND
    • 4 points on your license, AND
    • 30-day license suspension.

Failing to Stop for a Stopped School Bus Displaying a Stop Sign and Red Lights (Section 3345)

    • The law:
    • If you’re travelling on the same road as a school bus, or come to an intersection when a school bus does, no matter whether you’re travelling the same direction or different direction as the bus, you must stop within 10 feet of the bus when:
    • The bus displays flashing red lights and a stop sign, indicating it’s making a stop to let kids on or off.
    • If only yellow lights on the bus are flashing, a driver may proceed, but only with caution, and should be prepared to stop upon the flashing of red lights.
    • You can only proceed when all of the children getting on or off of the bus have reached a place of safety, or when the bus turns off its flashing red lights and takes its stop sign back, whichever occurs later.
    • Bus drivers have a duty to report to police any violation they see. A bus driver’s statement to police can be a sufficient basis to charge and convict somebody with this type of violation.
    • Penalties for conviction (!!!!!):
    • Fine & costs of about $334.50, AND
    • 5 points on your license, AND
    • 60-day license suspension.

Racing & Drag Racing (Section 3367)

    • What’s prohibited:
    • Racing
    • Attempting to outgain, outdistance, or prevent another vehicle from passing, in order to arrive at a given destination before another vehicle or vehicles.
    • Testing the physical stamina or endurance of drivers over long distance driving routes.
    • Drag Racing
    • Basically, racing side by side, in order to compare the relative speeds or acceleration of the vehicles within a certain distance or time limit.
    • Trying to set a speed record, even if you’re not racing anyone.
    • Being a spectator at, or otherwise “participating in any manner” in such an event.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $284.50.
    • No points on your license.

Failing to Yield to Pedestrian in Crosswalk (Section 3542)

    • The law:
    • When no “walk” signals are present or operating, drivers must yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection.
    • Pedestrians still have a duty to not suddenly walk or run into the path of a vehicle.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $134.50.
    • 2 points on your license.

Careless Driving (Section 3714)

    • The law:
    • A driver must not drive a vehicle in a “careless disregard for the safety of persons or property.”
    • It can only be applied to driving on public roads; parking lots and other private property don’t count.
    • The term “careless” is somewhat vague, but it generally means “unreasonable,” which is only slightly less vague. It’s less serious than reckless driving, which covers more of an intentional, mean-spirited disregard for safety. Usually, a careless driving charge is offered as a less serious alternative to which persons charged with reckless driving can plead guilty.
    • For example:
    • Somebody who falls asleep while driving can be convicted of careless driving.
    • Penalties for conviction:
    • Fines & costs:
    • If nobody was injured by the careless driving:
    • About $109.50.
    • If the careless driving unintentionally caused the death of another person:
    • About $584.50.
    • If the careless driving unintentionally caused serious bodily injury to another person:
    • About $334.50.
    • PLUS 3 points on your license.

Person Under 21 Years Old Driving with Alcohol in System (Section 3718)

    • The law:
    • A person under 21 must not drive a vehicle with ANY alcohol in his/her system at all.
    • This law is different than DUI laws, because:
    • Persons over 21 years old are allowed to drive with alcohol in their systems, so long as their BAC (blood-alcohol concentration) is less than 0.08% and they aren’t impaired.
    • A person under 21 can still be charged with and convicted of DUI, if his/her BAC is 0.08% or more, or if he/she is sufficiently impaired so as to not be able to operate a vehicle safely.
    • The penalty for this offense is much less serious than the penalties and consequences that follow from a DUI conviction.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of about $184.50.
    • No points on your license.

Snow and Ice Dislodged or Falling from Moving Vehicle (Section 3720)

    • The law:
    • A driver is guilty of this offense if snow or ice falls off his/her vehicle, while it’s moving, and the snow or ice strikes another vehicle or pedestrian and causes death or serious bodily injury.
    • Truck and tractor-trailer drivers must take special care to remove snow and ice from the tops of their vehicles, because snow or ice falling from a truck top is more likely to injure or kill someone than from a low-lying car.
    • Penalty for conviction:
    • Fine & costs of between about $284.50 and $1084.50.

Driving at Night with One or More Lights Off (not on purpose) (Section 4302)

  • The law:
  • Vehicles must have both headlights and taillights turned on at the following times:
  • Between sunset and sunrise
  • Whenever the driver can’t clearly see a person or other vehicle on the road from a distance of 1,000 feet, due to lack of light or “unfavorable atmospheric conditions” like rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, smoke, or smog.
  • Whenever the driver is using his/her windshield wipers (either continuously or intermittently) because of precipitation (rain, snow, sleet, or mist) or moisture on the windshield.
  • Penalty for conviction:
  • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
  • No points.

NON-MOVING VIOLATIONS

Littering (Section 3709)

  • What’s prohibited:
  • Throwing, from a vehicle, onto any highway or any other public or private property, without the consent of the owner, or into any body of water, any of the following:
  • Waste paper
  • Sweepings
  • Ashes
  • Household waste
  • Glass
  • Metal
  • Refuse
  • Rubbish
  • Any dangerous or detrimental substance.
  • Who’s held responsible?
  • The person who actually littered.
  • The driver of the vehicle from which the litter was thrown, if the driver didn’t stop.
  • The registered owner of the vehicle, where the registered owner does not identify the driver if asked.
  • Penalties for conviction:
  • Fine & costs:
  • Between approximately $685 and $985, if the trash was thrown upon specially-protected land.
  • Around $385 for non-protected land.
  • The judge may order, instead of OR in addition to the fines, that the person pick up litter for a certain number of hours:
  • If no prior littering convictions:
  • 8 to 16 hours.
  • If one prior littering conviction:
  • 16 to 32 hours.
  • If two or more prior littering convictions:
  • 40 to 80 hours.

Restrictions on Open Alcohol Containers (Section 3809)

  • What’s prohibited:
  • Possessing an opened alcoholic beverage container or a controlled substance in a motor vehicle, while the vehicle is on a public road. The container need not actually be open and uncapped to fall within this offense; it’s still prohibited to have a partially-consumed bottle of alcoholic beverage if the cap is on. Any alcoholic beverage bottles must be empty or never-opened.
  • Vehicles that are exempt from this law:
  • Limousines
  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Other vehicles designed/maintained/used primarily for transporting persons for compensation.
  • The living quarters of a house coach or house trailer.
  • The police need not actually chemically test the alleged alcohol; the offense can be proven through “circumstantial evidence,” such as the presence of a bottle labeled “Captain Morgan” half full of a liquid that looks and smells like rum.
  • Penalty for conviction:
  • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
  • No points on your license.

SERIOUS TRAFFIC OFFENSES

Homicide by Vehicle (Section 3732)

  • The Law:
  • You’re guilty of homicide by vehicle if you:
  • “recklessly” or “with gross negligence,”
  • cause the death of another person,
  • while violating a separate traffic law, AND
  • the violation of that other traffic law is the cause of the victim’s death.
  • For example: speeding, tailgating, racing, running a stop sign, or erratically changing lanes can be the basis for vehicular homicide.
  • Does NOT include deaths caused by DUI; that’s addressed by another law (Section 3735).
  • 3rd-degree felony (worse than summary offenses and misdemeanors, but not as bad as 2nd- or 1st-degree felonies).
  • Penalties for a conviction:
  • Fine of up to $15,000
  • 3-year license suspension
  • 3 to 12 months in jail or at a boot camp (if you have no prior felony/misdemeanor convictions)
  • MAXIMUM of 7 years in jail.
  • If the death was in an active work zone:
  • Probable sentence of 9 to 16 months in jail, if no prior felony or misdemeanor convictions.
  • Can technically be sentenced to an additional term of up to 5 years in jail.

Homicide by Vehicle while Driving Under the Influence (Section 3735)

  • The law:
  • You’re guilty of Vehicular Homicide while DUI if you:
  • Unintentionally cause the death of another person,
  • While driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance, AND
  • Get convicted of DUI for the same event, AND
  • The DUI was the cause of the death.
  • 2nd-degree felony
  • Penalties for a conviction:
  • Fine of up to $25,000
  • 3-year license suspension (you’ll be in jail & can’t drive anyway!)
  • MANDATORY MINIMUM of 3 years for each death.
  • If more than one person is killed, you have to serve each sentence one-after-the-other instead of at the same time. For example, if you drive drunk and kill 3 people, you have a mandatory minimum sentence of 9 years. Just another reason to never drive impaired.

Aggravated Assault by Vehicle (Section 3732.1)

    • The law:
    • You’re guilty of aggravated assault by vehicle if you:
    • “recklessly” or “with gross negligence,”
    • cause serious bodily injury to another person,
    • (injury which creates a substantial risk of death or which does cause serious & permanent disfigurement or prolonged impairment of use/function of any body part)
    • while violating a separate traffic law, AND
    • that violation is the cause of the injury.
    • 3rd-degree felony
    • Does NOT apply if it’s also a DUI (see Section 3735.1)
    • Penalties for a conviction:
    • Fine of up to $15,000
    • Zero to 9 months in jail (if no prior felony/misdemeanor convictions)
    • MAXIMUM of 7 years in jail (very unlikely)
    • If injury was in an active work zone:
    • An additional sentence of up to two years.

Aggravated Assault by Vehicle while Driving Under the Influence (Section 3735.1)

      • The law:
      • You’re guilty if you:
      • Negligently (i.e., without reasonable care) cause serious bodily injury to another person,
      • While driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, AND
      • Get convicted of DUI for the same event, AND
      • The DUI was the cause of the injury.
      • 2nd-degree felony.
      • Penalties upon conviction:
      • Fine of up to $25,000
      • One-year license suspension
      • Typical sentence of 6 to 14 months in jail, if no prior felony or misdemeanor convictions.
      • Possible boot camp.

Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Police Officer (Section 3733)

        • The law:
        • You’re guilty if:
        • You intentionally fail or refuse to pull over for a police officer, after the officer has made an audible and visible signal.
        • The signals can be by:
        • Hand
        • Voice
        • Emergency lights
        • Sirens
        • Normally a 2nd-degree Misdemeanor, BUT
        • Upgraded to a 3rd-degree FELONY if, while fleeing/eluding, the driver:
        • Is driving under the influence, or
        • Crosses a state line, or
        • Puts people in danger due to the high speed of the chase
        • Penalties upon conviction:
        • For Misdemeanor:
        • Fine of up to $5,500
        • 1-year license suspension
        • Perhaps probation/community service (if no priors)
        • For Felony:
        • Fine of up to $15,500
        • 1-year license suspension
        • Typically Zero to 9 months in jail (if no priors)
        • Perhaps probation/community service
        • DEFENSES:
        • Police car wasn’t clearly identifiable as a police car by its markings
        • Police officer driving an unmarked police car was not in uniform or was not wearing a badge or other display of authority
        • Person failed to immediately stop because of a good faith concern for personal safety, considering:
        • Time/location
        • Type of police vehicle
        • Person’s conduct while being followed by officer;
        • Whether the person stopped at the first available reasonably lighted or populated area
        • Any other relevant factor

Driving without Lights to Avoid Identification or Arrest (Section 3734)

          • The law:
          • You’re guilty if, while driving, you turn off your lights “for the purpose of avoiding identification or arrest.”
          • Prosecutor can use circumstantial evidence to prove a person’s intent to purposely escape police pursuit.
          • Penalty upon conviction:
          • Fine & costs of about $285.
          • 6-month license suspension.

Reckless Driving (Section 3736)

            • The law:
            • You’re guilty if you drive recklessly.
            • What does “RECKLESS” mean? Several ways to put it:
            • “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons and property”
            • “conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of harm that could result from the conduct”
            • “with a conscious indifference to the consequences”
            • Real-life examples:
            • Speeding, tailgating, and erratically changing lanes all at once.
            • Driving an unfamiliar route while intoxicated and proceeding to drive ¼ mile in the wrong direction on an off-ramp before an accident.
            • Weaving in and out of roadway for several miles on an expressway before crashing into the center barrier so hard that the front tire of the car blows out, while drinking a “40” of malt liquor, while having a high (0.21%) blood-alcohol concentration.
            • Penalties for conviction:
            • Fine & costs of about $285.
            • 6-month license suspension

Leaving Scene of Accident Involving Death or Personal Injury (Section 3742)

              • The law:
              • The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident involving injury or death must immediately stop at the scene, or as close as possible, and immediately go to the scene of the accident and:
              • Give his/her name, address, and registration number of the vehicle he/she is driving; AND
              • Upon request, show his/her driver’s license and proof of insurance; AND
              • Give reasonable assistance to anyone injured, including:
              • The making of arrangements for the carrying of the injured person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for treatment, if it is apparent that treatment is necessary or if requested by the injured person.
              • If no one else is in a condition to receive that information, and no police officer is present, the driver must immediately call the police.
              • If the driver is physically unable to do those things, the other occupants in the vehicle must:
              • Fully reveal his/her identity
              • Fully reveal the driver’s identity
              • Perform the duties above.
              • Penalties upon conviction:
              • Normally:
              • 1st-degree misdemeanor
              • 1-year license suspension
              • Zero to 1 month in jail; perhaps probation
              • Fine of up to $10,000
              • If the victim suffers serious bodily injury:
              • 3rd-degree felony
              • 1-year license suspension
              • Mandatory minimum of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine, technically could be up to 7 years & $15,000 fine.
              • If the victim dies:
              • 3rd-degree felony
              • 1-year license suspension
              • Mandatory minimum of 1 year in jail and $2,500 fine, technically could be up to 7 years & $15,000 fine.

Unlicensed Driver – Accident with Death/Serious Bodily Injury (Section 3742.1)

                • The law:
                • You’re guilty if you drive and cause an accident, which involves the injury or death of any person, AND
                • Your license, at the time, was disqualified, cancelled, recalled, revoked, or suspended and not restored; or you were never licensed to begin with
                • Penalties upon conviction:
                • Normally:
                • 2nd-degree misdemeanor
                • One-year additional license suspension
                • No mandatory jail sentence
                • Fine of up to $5,000
                • If the victim suffers serious bodily injury or death:
                • 3rd-degree felony
                • One-year additional license suspension
                • No mandatory jail time
                • Fine of up to $15,000
                • Forfeiture of the automobile driven by the unlicensed driver

Leaving Scene of Accident — Damage to Attended Vehicle or Property (Section 3743)

                  • The law:
                  • The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident which results only in damage to a vehicle or property, which is driven or attended by another person, must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene, or as close to it as possible, and immediately go to the scene and:
                  • Give his/her name, address, and registration number of the vehicle he/she is driving; AND
                  • Upon request, show his/her driver’s license and proof of insurance.
                  • Penalties upon conviction:
                  • 3rd-degree misdemeanor
                  • Fine of $2,500 and/or maximum 1 year in prison.
                  • 6-month license suspension.

Leaving Scene of Accident — Unattended Vehicle or Property (Section 3745)

                    • The law:
                    • The driver of a vehicle that collides with or is involved in an accident with any unattended vehicle or other unattended property must immediately stop his/her vehicle close by and:
                    • Locate and notify the owner or operator of the damaged vehicle of his/her name, address, insurance information, and registration information of his/her vehicle; OR
                    • Attach to the damaged vehicle/property, in an obvious place, a written notice including that information.
                    • The driver must also notify the police “without unnecessary delay.”
                    • Penalties upon conviction:
                    • Fine of about $385 and/or maximum 90 days in prison.

DRIVER’S LICENSE LAWS

Learner’s Permits

                    • If you want to be able to drive on your own, you must first get a Learner’s Permit, regardless of your age.
                    • While driving a vehicle using a Learner’s Permit, you must be accompanied and supervised by somebody:
                    • who is at least 21 years old (however, if the supervisor is the permit holder’s spouse, parent, or guardian, he/she only needs to be at least 18),
                    • is licensed to drive the class of vehicle being driven by the permit holder (usually will be the normal “Class C”), AND
                    • is actually sitting in the front passenger seat (unless it’s a motorcycle, of course).
                    • A learner’s permit is valid for 1 year, unless the permit holder fails the driver’s license test 3 times. The permit becomes expired upon the occurrence of either of those events, and the permit holder must then re-apply for a permit.
                    • When can you get a real license?
                    • If you’re under 18, you must:
                    • have had a permit for at least 6 months,
                    • have completed at least 50 hours of actual driving, and have a parent/guardian/spouse sign a certification form saying that you did,
                    • fill out a certification form (the one your parent/guardian/spouse has to sign), and
                    • take and pass a driver’s test. You can NOT take the driver’s test with a rental vehicle.
                    • If you do all of those things, you’ll receive a Junior Driver’s License.
                    • If you’re 18 or older:
                    • You must take and pass a driver’s test — that’s all. If you do, you’ll get a Driver’s License.

Junior Driver’s Licenses

                    • They’re for 16 and 17 year-olds who have passed the driver’s test after completing all the requirements of a learner’s permit.
                    • Several restrictions are imposed:
                    • Can’t drive on a public highway between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., unless:
                    • You’re accompanied by a spouse 18-or-older, or a parent/guardian, or
                    • You work for a volunteer fire company, or are engaged in public or charitable service, or are employed AND have an affidavit/certificate of authorization from your employer/fire chief/supervisor. If you end service or employment at the place from which you have that certificate, you must surrender it to the supervisor/employer/fire chief. If you don’t surrender it, they have to tell the State Police of your refusal.
                    • PENNDOT can suspend your license until you turn 18, or up to 90 days, if:
                    • You’re partially or fully responsible for an accident that hurt or killed someone, or so badly damaged a vehicle that it needed to be towed from the scene, and/or
                    • You’re convicted of any violation of the Vehicle Code.
                    • Penalties for disobeying the restrictions:
                    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
                    • Possible suspension of Junior License up to 90 days.
                    • Police prohibiting you from driving after they pulled you over, making you have to call someone else for a ride.
                    • Your Junior License automatically becomes a full Driver’s License, without restrictions, once you turn 18. You don’t need to get a separate license; you can keep the one you have.

Driver’s Licenses

                    • How to get one if you’re 18 or older:
                    • Have a Learner’s Permit first, then take and pass a Driver’s Test.
                    • How to get one if you’re still only 17 (no way to get one if you’re only 16):
                    • Complete a driver’s training course approved by PENNDOT, and
                    • Have a Junior Driver’s License for 12 months, and
                    • Not be partially or fully responsible for an accident involving death, injury, or damage to a vehicle that rendered it undriveable, and
                    • Not be convicted of any Vehicle Code violations, and
                    • Apply for a Driver’s License (application only; don’t need to take another test).
                    • You’re NOT allowed to get a Pennsylvania Driver’s License if ANY of the following apply to you:
                    • Your operating privilege is suspended or revoked in any state;
                    • You’re a user of alcohol or drugs to such a degree that it renders you incapable of safely driving a vehicle;
                    • The state has determined that you’re afflicted with or suffering from any mental disability or disease and you haven’t been restored to “competency”;
                    • You’re not a resident of Pennsylvania;
                    • You’ve repeatedly violated Vehicle Code laws relating to driver licensing. You get a hearing first, though.
                    • Revocation for “Habitual Offenders”
                    • Your license will be revoked for 5 years if, during a 5-year span, you’re convicted three times of any one or more of the following offenses, arising from three separate incidents (doesn’t have to be the same offense three times; can “mix-and-match”):
                    • Serious traffic offenses
                    • DUI (even if you get ARD)
                    • Driving while operating privilege is suspended or revoked
                    • Racing on highways/drag racing (Sec. 3367)
                    • Accidents involving death or personal injury (Sec. 3742)
                    • Accidents involving death or personal injury while not licensed (Sec. 3742.1)
                    • Accidents involving damage to attended vehicle or property (Sec. 3743)
                    • Each additional offense committed within that 5-year span will result in an additional revocation of 2 years if you’re found guilty.

Driving While Operating Privilege is Suspended or Revoked (Section 1543)

                    • Ordinary Penalty:
                    • Fine & costs of about $285
                    • If the initial suspension or revocation resulted from ARD for DUI, or from refusing to submit to a breath test:
                    • Fine & costs of about $585
                    • Minimum 60 days in jail
                    • Maximum 90 days in jail
                    • If the initial suspension or revocation resulted from ARD for DUI, or from refusing to submit to a breath test, AND your BAC was over 0.02% when you were pulled over while your license was suspended/revoked:
                    • First conviction:
                    • Fine & costs of about $1085
                    • Minimum 90 days in jail
                    • Second conviction:
                    • 3rd-degree misdemeanor
                    • Fine & costs of about $2600
                    • Minimum 6 months in jail
                    • Third/fourth/subsequent conviction:
                    • 1st-degree misdemeanor
                    • Fine & costs of about $5100
                    • Minimum 2 years in jail

COMMERCIAL DRIVER’S LICENSES (CDLs)

                    • What you would need one for:
                    • “Class A” CDL:
                    • Combination of vehicles which has a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, and the gross vehicle weight rating of the vehicle(s) being towed is more than 10,000 pounds.
                    • Automatically qualifies you to drive vehicles that require a Class B or Class C license.
                    • “Class B” CDL:
                    • Single vehicle with gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, OR
                    • Any such vehicle that’s towing a vehicle having a gross vehicle weight rating or 10,000 pounds or less.
                    • DON’T need one to drive a fire truck, if have certificate of authorization from fire chief.
                    • Automatically qualifies you to drive vehicles that require a Class C license.
                    • “Class C” CDL:
                    • Vehicles designed to carry 16 or more people (including driver)
                    • School buses designed to carry 11 or more people (including driver)
                    • Vehicles that require hazardous material placards or that transport certain dangerous chemicals
                    • How to get one:
                    • Get a Learner’s Permit for the class of CDL you want to have,
                    • Have that permit for at least 15 days,
                    • Pass a knowledge and skills tests, and
                    • Get the proper “endorsements” for certain uses (like for hazardous materials).

Notification Requirements for CDL Drivers

                    • If you’re convicted of any traffic law in the United States or Canada, you must report that fact in writing to your employer within 30 days of the conviction.
                    • If you fail to do so, and you’re charged and convicted of such failure, you must pay fine & costs of about $185.
                    • If your CDL is suspended, revoked, or cancelled by any state, you must tell your employer of that fact by the end of the next business day.
                    • If you fail to do so, and you’re charged and convicted of such failure, you must pay fine & costs of about $285.
                    • When applying for a CDL-related job, you must tell the employer you’re applying to about your previous employment as a CDL driver over the past 10 years.
                    • If you fail to, and you’re charged and convicted of such failure, you must pay fine & costs of about $185.

Special DUI Rule for CDL Drivers (Section 1612)

                    • You’re not allowed to drive a school vehicle or a commercial vehicle with ANY alchol in your system. You’re also not allowed to refuse a breath test.
                    • If you’re convicted, it’s not technically DUI, but there are still penalties.
                    • Penalties for conviction:
                    • If commercial vehicle:
                    • Fine & costs of about $185
                    • Driver is placed out-of-service for 24 hours
                    • If school vehicle:
                    • Fine & costs of about $335
                    • Employer must place driver out of service for 30 days
                    • If 2nd or subsequent conviction:
                    • Fine & costs of about $585
                    • Plus the applicable “out-of-service” time.

CDL Suspensions/Revocations:

                    • CAUTION! It’s easier to lose a CDL that it is to lose a personal license.
                    • 1-year CDL suspension for a FIRST conviction of any of these, even if you weren’t driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the offense (except for the two offenses at the bottom of the list):
                    • DUI, even if you got ARD!
                    • Leaving the scene of an accident involving personal injury or death
                    • Leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to attended vehicle or property
                    • Leaving the scene of an accident involving damage to unattended vehicle or property
                    • Any felony in which a motor vehicle was “essentially involved” (except drug-related felonies, which trigger a lifelong suspension)
                    • Driving a commercial vehicle while CDL suspended/revoked
                    • Homicide by Vehicle (but only if it occurred while you were driving a commercial vehicle)
                    • Involuntary Manslaughter (but only if it occurred while you were driving a commercial vehicle)
                    • 3-year CDL suspension if:
                    • The driver committed any of the above-listed offenses while transporting hazardous materials or while driving a bus.
                    • Lifelong CDL suspension if:
                    • You’re convicted on two separate occasions of any of the offenses listed above (or refused to give a breath test twice).
                    • There’s a chance that PENNDOT will agree to suspend the CDL for less than life, but at least 10 years.
                    • Sometimes, one incident will give rise to convictions for multiple laws. However, the convictions must have arisen from two separate incidents in order for the lifelong suspension to be applicable.
                    • You’re convicted of a drug-related felony, like manufacture, distribution, or possession with intent to distribute, where the person had a CDL and used a commercial vehicle during the commission of the drug-related felony.
                    • There’s no possibility that PENNDOT would reduce the lifelong suspension for this type of suspension.
                    • Suspensions for convictions of violating railroad crossing offenses:
                    • 60 days for first conviction
                    • 120 days for 2nd conviction within 3-year period
                    • One year for third conviction within 3-year period
                    • Suspensions for serious traffic violations (but only those that resulted in a non-commercial license suspension as well) committed while driving a commercial vehicle:
                    • 60 days upon 2nd conviction within 3-year period
                    • 120 days upon 3rd conviction within 3-year period

LICENSE PLATES, REGISTRATION, & INSPECTION

Registration & Certificate of Title Required (Section 1301)

                    • What’s prohibited:
                    • Any person driving or moving an unregistered motorized vehicle on any Pennsylvania “highway” (public road)
                    • Any owner or motor carrier “knowingly” permitting anyone to drive or move his/her unregistered motorized vehicle on any Pennsylvania highway
                    • You must re-register your vehicle every year; if your registration expires, the vehicle becomes “unregistered.”
                    • You can’t register a vehicle unless you have applied for or actually have the certificate of title (official ownership document) for that vehicle.
                    • Penalties upon conviction:
                    • Fine & costs:
                    • If your registration has been invalid or expired for more than 60 days at the time of the offense:
                    • About $160, OR
                    • [Costs of $84.50] plus [double the registration fee, which is currently $36 but may change].
                    • The LARGER of the two dollar amounts is the one that is used.
                    • If your PA registration became expired or invalid within 60 days of getting caught by the police:
                    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
                    • Not all motorized vehicles have to be registered in Pennsylvania! Here are some examples of vehicles that are exempt from registration, even if they’re driven upon public highways:
                    • Farm vehicles, as long as they don’t stray more than 25 miles from their home farm.
                    • Golf carts, while crossing a public highway during a game of golf at a golf course.
                    • Vehicles in PA that are registered in another state.
                    • “Electric personal assistive mobility devices.”
                    • BUT, dirt bikes are NOT exempted, and must be registered if driven upon public highways.

Display of Registration Plate (License Plate) (Section 1332)

                    • The law:
                    • Every license plate must at all times be securely fastened to the vehicle it’s assigned to in PENNDOT’s database.
                    • The plate must not be so dirty or obscured as to prevent the reading of the numbers/letters on it from a “reasonable distance.”
                    • Also, you can’t deliberately cover your plate in a way that makes it impossible for an automated red-light camera to take a picture of it.
                    • You must make sure that your license plate lights work so that your plate can be read when it’s dark out. (Section 4303).
                    • Examples:
                    • One person was guilty of this offense where his license plate was so dirty that the police officer couldn’t read it from 3 to 4 car lengths behind him.
                    • A person was guilty because he didn’t clear the snow off of his plate, and the snow covered the first letter of the plate.
                    • Penalty for conviction:
                    • Fine & costs of about $185.

Operating Vehicle Without Official Inspection Certificate (Section 4703)

                    • The law:
                    • Simply put, no vehicle which is required to be registered may be operated on a public highway if its inspection certificate (sticker) has expired.
                    • Your inspection certificate is valid through the END of the month that’s displayed on it.
                    • Some examples of exceptions:
                    • Farm vehicles
                    • Motorized bicycles
                    • Motor vehicles being driven to the inspection station to get an inspection
                    • Newly-purchased vehicles (you have 10 days from the date of purchase to get it inspected)
                    • In practice:
                    • Most police will give you a reasonable time period to get your vehicle inspected. Then, if you show them that you got your vehicle inspected within that time period, they’ll drop the ticket.
                    • You can be ticketed for this offense only once within any 24-hour period.
                    • Penalty for conviction:
                    • Fine & costs of about $109.50.
                    • BUT, if the vehicle is a “motor carrier vehicle,” bus, or school bus:
                    • the police will put the vehicle out of service and won’t put it back into service until the inspection is completed.
                    • Fine & costs of anywhere between $185 and $585.

CAR INSURANCE

The Very Basics

    • Need coverage that provides bodily-injury insurance of at least $15,000 per person, up to at least $30,000 per accident, and at least $5,000 for property damage per accident.
    • Need to carry proof of insurance; most officers will ask for it if you’re pulled over.

Driving Without the Minimum Required Insurance

  • Fine & costs of about $385 — OWNER must pay.
  • Suspension of the license of the owner of the uninsured vehicle and suspension for at least 3 months of the registration of the uninsured vehicle. It won’t be restored until the restoration fee is paid and proof of insurance is shown.
  • DOESN’T APPLY if the owner shows that the lapse in insurance was for less than 31 days, and that the owner did not operate or permit the operation of the vehicle during the period of lapse.