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Pennsylvania New Resident Guide

Welcome to Pennsylvania! As a new driver to this state you will need to be aware of our unique traffic laws and regulations. Here's what you need to keep in mind while driving in Pennsylvania. Some of these rules may be the same as what you're already used to, but others will be drastically different!

Licensing and Residency Requirements



  • All new residents with out-of-state non-commercial driver's licenses must obtain a PA Driver's License within 60 days of establishing Pennsylvania residency.
  • All new residents are required to make application for Pennsylvania title and registration of their vehicle(s) within 20 days of establishing residency in Pennsylvania.
  • Residents of Pennsylvania are required by law to report their change of address within 15 days of moving. Please note: You are required to change your vehicle registration information and your driver's license information.


Graduated Licensing Program



Learner's Permit

Requirements

  • Must be at least 16;
  • Must provide proof of passing physical examination;
  • Must pass written test and vision screening.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May only drive under supervision of a person who meets the following conditions:
    • Is at least 21 years of age;
    • Is licensed in Pennsylvania;
    • Is seated beside holder of learner's permit.

Junior Driver's License

Requirements

  • Must be 16 or 17 years of age;
  • Must have held learner's permit for 6 months;
  • Must have completed 65 hours of practice driving including 10 at night and 5 in inclement weather;
  • Must pass drive test.

Privileges and Restrictions

  • May not drive unsupervised between 11 PM and 5 AM;
  • For first 6 months, may not drive with more than 1 unrelated passenger under 18, unless accompanied by parent or guardian;
  • After first 6 months, if crash and conviction free, teens may drive with no more than 3 unrelated passengers under 18, unless accompanied by parent or guardian.

Regular Driver's License

Requirements

  • Must be 17 1/2 years of age and submit application form by mail;
  • Must have completed classroom and behind the wheel driver education courses;
  • Must have not been convicted of any driving violations or caused an accident for a period of 12 months after receiving a junior license;
  • At age 18, Junior Driver's License automatically becomes a Regular Driver's License.


Violation Point Counts

The amount of points that go against your driver's license for specific types of violations.



5 Point Violations

  • Failure to stop for school bus with flashing red lights
  • Speeding 26 to 30 MPH over limit
  • Speeding 31+ MPH over limit

4 Point Violations

  • Improper passing on a hill
  • Failure to comply with crossing gate or barrier
  • Failure to stop at railroad crossings
  • Leaving scene of accident involving property damage only
  • Speeding 16 to 25 MPH over limit

3 Point Violations

  • Violation concerning license
  • Failure to stop for a red light
  • Failure to stop for a flashing red light
  • Failure to yield half of roadway to oncoming vehicle
  • Improper passing, overtaken driver to maintain speed; passing driver to pull in at safe distance
  • Improper passing on the right
  • Improper passing on the left, clear distance ahead
  • Improper passing at a railroad crossing or intersection.
  • Improper passing at a bridge or tunnel
  • Improper passing in a no-passing zone
  • Following too closely
  • Failure to yield to driver on the right at intersection
  • Failure to yield to oncoming driver when making left turn
  • Failure to stop for stop sign
  • Failure to yield at yield sign
  • Failure to yield when entering or crossing roadway between intersections
  • Improper turning around - illegal U-turns
  • Failure to stop when entering from alley, driveway or building
  • Exceeding special speed limit in school zone
  • Exceeding special speed limit for trucks on downgrades
  • Failure to yield to pedestrian on sidewalk when entering from a driveway or alley
  • Failure to yield to blind pedestrians
  • Improper backing
  • Careless driving
  • Speeding 11 to 15 MPH over limit

2 Point Violations

  • Violation of restriction on driver's license - wearing glasses, etc
  • Failure to obey authorized persons directing traffic
  • Obedience to traffic control devices warning of hazardous conditions
  • Failure to obey signal indicating approach of train
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Failure to yield to pedestrian in crosswalk
  • Speeding 6 to 10 MPH over limit

Driving Record

Three (3) points are removed from a driving record for each 12 consecutive months in which a person is not under suspension or revocation or has not committed any violation which results in the assignment of points or in suspension or revocation under Chapter 15 of the Vehicle Code. Once a driving record is reduced to zero points and remains at zero points for 12 consecutive months, any further accumulation of points will be regarded as the first accumulation of points.

First Accumulation of 6 Points:

  • When any driving record reaches 6 or more points for the first time, the driver will receive a written notice to take a special written point examination. The examination will address:
    • Knowledge of Safe Driving Practices,
    • Knowledge of Departmental Sanctions, and
    • Knowledge of Related Safety Issues.
  • The driver has 30 days to successfully pass the exam or else the license will be suspended until the exam is passed. If the exam is passed within the 30 day period, 2 points will be removed from the driving record.

Second Accumulation of 6 Points

  • When any driving record is reduced below 6 points and then for a second time reaches 6 or more points, the driver will have to attend a Departmental Hearing. The driver will receive a written notice of the specific time and location of the required hearing. At the hearing, a hearing examiner will review the driver's record. After the hearing, the Department may recommend one or more:
    • Order a 15 Day License Suspension,
    • Order the Driver to Take a Special On-Road Driver's Examination, or
    • Take No Action.
  • If a person's driving privilege is suspended or a special driver's exam is recommended, 2 points will be removed from the driving record if the driver passes the exam within 30 days or 2 points will be removed once the 15 day suspension has been served. No points are removed from the driving record if the Department does not initiate a sanction.
  • Failure to attend this Departmental Hearing will result in a 60 day license suspension.

Third or More Accumulation of 6 Points

  • When any driving record is reduced below 6 points and for the third or subsequent time reaches 6 or more points, the driver will have to attend a Departmental hearing. The hearing examiner will review the driving record. The Department will then determine if a 30 day license suspension will be initiated.
  • Failure to attend this Departmental hearing will result in the suspension of the driver's license until the driver attends the hearing.

Accumulation of 11 Points or More

  • When any driving record reaches 11 or more points, the driver's license will automatically be suspended. The length of suspension depends on how many times the license was suspended in the past. The suspension schedule is as follows:
    • First Suspension - 5 days per point
    • Second Suspension - 10 days per point
    • Third Suspension - 15 days per point
    • Subsequent Suspensions - One year


Insurance Requirements



Drivers must purchase and maintain car insurance in order to legally drive in Pennsylvania . Under Pennsylvania law, this is called maintaining "financial responsibility" on your vehicles.

  • Medical Benefits
    • At least $5,000.
  • Bodily Injury Liability
    • $15,000 for injuries to one person.
    • $30,000 for one accident.
  • Property Damage Liability
    • At least $5,000.
  • Alternative single limit of $35,000 which meets bodily injury liability and property damage liability minimum requirements.

Limited or Full Tort - You can choose to have full or limited tort coverage. Limited tort coverage offers you a savings on your premiums. You are still able to recover all out-of-pocket medical and other expenses; however, you are not able to recover certain damages - such as payments for pain and suffering - unless the injuries meet one of the exceptions to limited tort as defined in Act 6 of 1990, title 75, section 1705 (d). With full tort coverage selection, you retain unrestricted rights to bring suit against the negligent party.



Headlight Laws



You must dim your headlights from high to low beam when you are within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or when within 300 feet of a vehicle traveling ahead of you

You must use your headlights:

  • Between sunset and sunrise.
  • Anytime their vehicle wipers are in continuous or intermittent use due to weather conditions
  • When traveling through a work zone, no matter what time of day, no matter whether the work zone is active or not
  • When they cannot see because of insufficient light on gray days or in heavy traffic when their vehicle may seem to blend in with the surroundings.
  • When visibility is reduced to 1,000 feet
  • When there are unfavorable atmospheric conditions, including rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, smoke or smog
  • You may flash your high beams at oncoming vehicles as a warning of roadway emergencies or other dangerous or hazardous conditions ahead.
  • You may flash from low to high beams intermittently to indicate your intention to pass, provided a vehicle is not approaching from the opposite direction within 500 feet.


Implied Consent Laws



Criminal

  • This applies to an individual who both violates the general impairment statute and refuses testing or blood or breath.
  • First offense - Not less than 72 hours and not less than $1,000 or more than $5,000.
  • Second offense - Not less than 90 days and not less than $1,500.
  • Third or subsequent offense - Not less than 1 year and not less than $2,500.

Administrative

  • First refusal - Suspension 12 months.
  • Subsequent refusal (or prior DUI) - Suspension 18 months.
  • Refusal when suspected of operating with .02 or greater while DUI suspended, or .025 or greater in violation of Interlock restrictions - Suspension 6 months.


DUI Penalties



General Impairment

First offense (misdemeanor)

  • Minimum 6 month probation;
  • Minimum $300 fine;
  • Up to 150 hours community service;
  • If BAC .16 or more, additional penalties apply.

Second offense (misdemeanor)

  • 5 days - 6 months imprisonment;
  • $300 - $2,500 fine;
  • Up to 150 hours community service;
  • 12 months license suspension;
  • If BAC .16 or more, additional penalties apply;
  • If within 10 years of first offense, ignition interlock required up to 1 year.

Third or subsequent offense (2nd degree misdemeanor)

  • 10 days - 2 years imprisonment;
  • $500 - $5,000 fine;
  • Up to 150 hours community service;
  • 12 months license suspension;
  • If BAC .16 or more, additional penalties apply;
  • If within 10 years of first offense, ignition interlock required up to 1 year.

Other

Child endangerment

  • An individual who violates the impaired driving statute with an minor (under age 18) in the vehicle shall be sentenced to additional fines and imprisonment

Alcohol Education and Treatment Mandatory for All Offenders.



Open Container Law



The Open Container Law prohibits possession of an open alcoholic beverage container in the passenger area of any motor vehicle, by any occupant of the vehicle, on any public highway or right of way, whether or not the vehicle is in motion.



Red Light Violation Fines



  • Traditional enforcement: $25 fine/3 points.
  • Auto enforcement: $100 maximum; not on operating record.


Construction Zone Penalties



Numerous specified violations when workers are present are subject to two times the original fine.



Turn Signal Information



If you are driving less than 35 mph, signal your intention to turn or change lanes at least 100 feet in advance. If you are driving 35 mph or more, you must signal at least 300 feet in advance.



Hazard Light Information



Hazard light use is permitted in the following circumstances, for the purpose of warning other drivers of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of extraordinary care in approaching, overtaking or passing.

  • When the vehicle is stopped or disabled on a highway.
  • Outside of a business or residential district, when the vehicle is unable to maintain a speed of at least 25 miles per hour because of weather, grade or other similar factors
  • Outside of a business or residential district, when the vehicle is unable to maintain a speed consistent with the normal flow of traffic.

Hazard light use is not permitted in the following circumstances:

  • When the vehicle is stopped in compliance with a traffic-control device or when legally parked.


Funeral Procession Right-of-Way Laws



  • The law allows vehicles in a funeral procession to proceed past a red light or stop sign if the lead vehicle entered the intersection while the light was still green or if it made a full stop at the stop sign.
  • Each vehicle in the procession must have its headlights lit, emergency flashers on, and a flag or other insignia indicating it is part of the procession.
  • They must yield the right-of-way to emergency vehicles.


School Bus Laws



Requirements

  • Vehicles are required to stop unless the bus is on the opposite roadway of a divided highway.
  • Vehicles must stop at least 10 feet away from the bus.

Penalties

  • Failure to stop and remain stopped when required will result in a 60-day suspension of your driver's license, 5 points on your driving record and a fine of $250.


Bicyclist Passing Distance



A 4-foot minimum passing distance is required.



Motorcycle Laws



Licensing

  • A motorcycle learner's permit entitles the person to whom it is issued to operate a motorcycle between sunrise and sunset, and unless already licensed while under the instruction and immediate supervision of a licensed motorcycle operator. Motorcycle learner's permit holder must not carry any passenger other than an instructor properly licensed to operate the motorcycle.
  • If an applicant has successfully completed an approved motorcycle safety course that meets the requirements of the motorcycle operator's license examination administered by the Department, then the examination is waived.

Protective Gear

  • All motorcyclists under 21 must wear a helmet. Motorcyclists 21 years of age or older who have either been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least 2 years or who have completed the motorcycle safety program are exempt from wearing a helmet. If the motorcyclist is exempt, their passenger is also exempt as long as they are at least 21 years of age.
  • An occupant of a 3-wheel motorcycle with an enclosed cab does not have to wear a safety helmet or protective eye gear.

Headlights

  • Daytime use of headlight required for motorcycles built after 1986.

Sharing the Road

  • Lane splitting is not authorized.
  • Two motorcycles may travel side-by-side in a single lane.


Using the Shoulder to Pass



You may pass a left-turning vehicle on the right as long as you do not drive off the berm or shoulder of the highway. You may not drive off the roadway when passing a vehicle not making a left turn.



Passing Laws



Do Not Pass:

  • When approaching or upon a hill or curve.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing.
  • When approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct, or tunnel.

When Being Passed:

  • Give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle.
  • The overtaking vehicle may signal by honking its horn or flashing low and high beams intermittently.
  • Do not increase the speed of your vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.


Speed Limits



  • 65 mph on certain interstate highways and freeways;
    • Likewise, the maximum speed limit on the Pennsylvania Turnpike is 55 mph unless a maximum speed limit of 65 mph has been posted.
  • 55 mph on other highways;
  • 35 mph in urban districts;
  • 25 mph in residential districts;350
  • 15 mph in a school zone.


Safety Belt and Child Safety Seat Laws



Safety Belts

  • Occupants 8 - 17 years in all seats, and occupants 18 and older in the front seat must wear safety belts.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for a belt law violation involving children less than 18 years.
  • The fine for a first offense is $10.

Child Seats

  • Children 7 years and younger must be in a child seat, and may not use an adult safety belt.
  • Police may stop vehicles solely for child seat law violations.
  • The fine for a first offense is $75.


Emergency Vehicle Laws



Move Over

  • When approaching or passing an emergency response area, you must:
    • Pass in a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response area, if possible; or
    • If passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal or unsafe, pass the emergency response area at a careful and prudent reduced speed reasonable for safely passing the emergency response area.
  • This law applies to areas where emergency service responders are rendering emergency assistance to individuals, and areas where an officer is conducting a traffic stop.

Following

  • Do not follow a fire apparatus traveling in response to a fire alarm closer than 500 feet, or stop within 500 feet of where the fire apparatus has stopped in answer to a fire alarm.

Collision Procedures

  • Stop at the scene or as close as possible without obstructing traffic more than necessary, and remain at the scene until all requirements are fulfilled.
  • If the crash resulted in injury or death, or if any vehicle involved requires towing, you must report the accident immediately to the nearest police department. If the driver is unable to make the report, any other occupant of the vehicle who is able to must do so.
  • You must provide the following information to any other person involved in the accident, or any police officer at the scene of the crash:
    • Driver's name and address;
    • Vehicle registration number;
    • Show driver's license upon request;
    • Show financial responsibility information.
  • Provide assistance to any injured person, including transporting them or making arrangements for transportation to a hospital or doctor, if necessary or requested.
  • If you have collided with a vehicle or other property that is unattended, locate and notify the operator or owner of the driver's name and address, financial responsibility information, and the vehicle registration number. If you are unable to do so, leave a written notice providing this information, and notify the nearest police department.
  • If none of the other people involved in the accident are in a condition to receive the information you are required to give them, and no police officer is present, you must report the crash to the nearest police department as soon as you have provided assistance to any injured person.
  • If the driver of a vehicle is physically unable to provide the required information, render assistance, or report the accident if required, any other occupants of the vehicle must perform these duties.
  • If there has been no personal injury or death, and the vehicle is capable of being safely driven, you must move the vehicle off the roadway.
  • If a police officer does not investigate an accident that is required to be reported immediately to the police department, you must file a written accident report within five days. If the driver is physically incapable of making this report, and the driver is not the owner, then the owner must make the report.


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