It might not surprise you that speeding is the most common traffic violation in Pennsylvania, but there are other traffic violations that can seriously impact both your driving record and your wallet. In addition, Pennsylvania has a point system that penalizes repeat offenders and keeps unsafe drivers off the road – and those points can add up quickly without you realizing it.
As you know, speeding is by far the most common traffic violation. In Pennsylvania, you are expected to drive at a safe speed – this is known as the “basic speeding law.” That means, for example, the speed limit for a stretch of road may be 55 mph, but if it is icy and dark outside then you could still get a speeding ticket if you drive at that speed. The other type of speeding law in Pennsylvania is “absolute speed limits” and they are as follows:
- School zone: 15 mph
- Urban districts: 35 mph
- Residential districts: 25 mph
- Freeways: either 65 mph or 70 mph
- All other roadways: 55 mph
Speeding tickets, like other traffic violations in Pennsylvania, will result in points being added to your driving record (usually two to three points depending on how much your speed exceeds the limit) and involve fees that are related to how much above the speed limit you were driving. If your speed was exceptionally high, you might also face a reckless or careless driving charge.
Reckless Driving and Careless Driving
In Pennsylvania, reckless driving occurs when you are driving in disregard for the safety of either property or persons. This is far different from an honest mistake in driving that leads to an accident because it implies that you knowingly took risks and endangered people. The penalties are steep even for a first-time offense: a $200 fine, a six-month license suspension, and 90 days in jail. The penalties are much worse for repeat offenders.
There is also a lesser charge of careless driving which implies that you did not realize how dangerously you were driving at the time. A first-time offense leads to similar penalties as reckless driving except there is no six-month license suspension unless someone is killed. A careless driving charge also adds three points to your driving record.
Running Red Lights and Stop Signs
In Pennsylvania, you can be fined $25 to $100 for running a stop sign or a red light and 3 points will be added to your driving record – putting you at the halfway mark for more serious penalties. If you are caught speeding by a red-light camera, the ticket is a maximum of $100, but there are no points added to your record.
Overtaking a School Bus
Overtaking a school bus means that you did not stop at least ten feet before a school bus that has stopped and has its red signal lights active. This is serious because it could result in the death of a child, so the penalties can be steep. The result of a conviction can be a $250 fine and 5 points added to your driving record.
Driving with a Suspended/Revoked License
If your license has been revoked or suspended, you obviously are not supposed to be driving. If you are caught, you face a possible a jail sentence, fines, and additional time added to your existing license suspension/revocation. Sometimes license suspensions are the result of a refusal to submit to chemical testing or as part of the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) intervention program, and if that is the case then you can be sentenced to 60 to 90 days in jail along with a $500 fine.
Pennsylvania’s Point System
If you accumulate 6 or more points, then you must pass (within 30 days) an exam demonstrating your knowledge of safety issues, safe driving practices, and the penalties involved. If you do not take the exam or do not pass, your license will be suspended. If it is the second time you have exceeded 6 points, then you will have to take a driver’s test and appear before the court for a review of your driving record. You have 15 days to take and pass the driver’s test, during which your license will be suspended. If your driving record reaches more than 11 points, your license can be suspended for up to a year. There is a bright spot, however: if you go 12 months with no traffic violations, 3 points will be deducted from your record.
Pennsylvania takes driving laws very seriously, from speeding and running red lights to more serious issues such as reckless driving and overtaking a school bus. Besides the obvious fines and potential jail time (depending on the offense, of course), the point system tracks and penalizes a history of bad driving, increases the danger of having your license suspended or revoked, and comes with the inevitable jump in insurance rates.
The Law Offices of Robert L. Schwarz
Pleading guilty to a traffic violation may seem like the hassle-free way of dealing with most tickets in Pennsylvania, but you also need to take into account the point system and the potential impact it may have on your life. If you or someone you love has been cited for a traffic violation, there is a chance you could have the charge lowered or even dismissed (and avoid those additional points being added to your driving record!). Contact me today to talk about fighting your traffic ticket!