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ICYMI: Highway Safety Law Awareness Week Annually Highlights Driver Safety Laws that Matter

March 12, 2020 07:00 AM
By: Jennifer Kuntch

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​Each year, PennDOT raises awareness of laws that are important to the safety of our motorists through education, social media and outreach with our partners, like the Pennsylvania State Police, in hope that it creates behavioral change.

Safety is everyone's responsibility. By obeying the rules of the road, everyone can do their part to reduce the number of crashes and fatalities on Pennsylvania roads. Always wear your seat belt and never drive aggressively, distracted or impaired.

Here are the laws highlighted in 2020 and their common-sense explanations.

Steer Clear Law

Pennsylvania's "Steer Clear" law was enacted to help prevent injuries and save lives of first responders. It requires drivers to move over or slow down when they encounter an emergency scene, traffic stop or disabled vehicle. Drivers must move over or slow down for all responders, including police, fire and ambulance crews, as well as stopped tow trucks and maintenance vehicles. In 2018, a similar law went into effect to protect trash and recycling workers. Drivers must slow down and move one lane away (if possible) when approaching a stationary trash or recycling truck.

Automated Work Zone Speed Enforcement (AWZSE)

Established by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in Act 86 of 2018 to reduce work zone speeds, change driver behavior, and improve work zone safety for workers and motorists, AWZSE uses portable, vehicle-mounted systems to detect and record motorists exceeding posted work zone speed limits by 11 miles per hour or more using electronic speed timing devices. The program entered a mandatory pre-enforcement period on January 4, 2020 and will begin enforcement on March 4, 2020. During the pre-enforcement period, automated speed enforcement units will be deployed in active work zones, but violations will not be issued. Work zones are selected to maximize the effectiveness of the systems and will be marked with signage in advance of the enforcement area. AWZSE systems are only operational in active work zones where workers are present. Once enforcement begins on March 4, registered owners will receive a warning letter for a first offense, a violation notice and $75 fine for a second offense, and a violation notice and $150 fine for third and subsequent offenses. These violations are civil penalties only; no points will be assessed to driver's licenses.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws

Pennsylvania law requires that any person who operates or rides a motorcycle (including an autocycle) must wear protective headgear unless he or she is 21 years of age or older and has either two years of riding experience or has completed a motorcycle safety course approved by PennDOT or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. In addition, the operator or an occupant of a three-wheeled motorcycle or autocycle equipped with an enclosed cab is exempt from wearing a helmet. The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program offers free motorcycle safety courses to Pennsylvania residents and active-duty military with a valid Pennsylvania driver's license and motorcycle permit.

Bicycle Helmet Laws

Pennsylvania law requires everyone under the age of 12 to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. This applies to anyone operating the bicycle, riding as a passenger, or riding in an attached restraining seat or trailer. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets whenever they ride. You can ensure a proper helmet fit using these guidelines (PDF). 

Seat Belt Laws

Pennsylvania's primary seat belt law requires drivers and passengers under 18 years of age to buckle up anywhere in the vehicle. Under Pennsylvania's primary "Child Passenger Safety" law, children under the age of four must be properly restrained in an approved child safety seat anywhere in the vehicle and children ages 4-8 must be restrained in an appropriate booster seat. The "Child Passenger Safety" law update, which went into effect in August 2016, states that children are required to be buckled into a rear-facing car seat until they are age 2 or meet the maximum weight or height requirements set by the manufacturer of the seat.

Pennsylvania's secondary seat belt law requires drivers and passengers 18 years and older wear a seat belt when behind the wheel or in the front passenger seat. If you are a driver 18 or older and police pull you over for another violation, you will receive a second ticket if you and/or your front-seat passengers aren't wearing seat belts.

School Bus Stopping Law

Pennsylvania law requires all drivers to stop when meeting or overtaking a stopped school bus with red signal lights flashing and stop arm extended. You must also stop when approaching an intersection where a school bus is stopped with red signal lights flashing and stop arm extended. If in doubt, stop! You must stop at least ten feet away from the school bus until the red lights have stopped flashing and the stop arm has been withdrawn. Do not move until all the children have reached a place of safety. If you are convicted of violating Pennsylvania's school bus stopping law, you will receive a 60-day driver's license suspension, five points on your driving record, and a $250 fine. Annually, more than 700 drivers are convicted for passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.

As for school bus speed cameras, Act 159 of 2019 permits side stop signal arm speed enforcement systems (SASES) for failure to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights, creates a surcharge for illegally passing a school bus, and establishes the School Bus Safety Grant Program Account. The stop arm cameras start recording once the side stop signal arm and red signal light is deployed. The recording captures violations and, after review by law enforcement, citations for violations can be issued.

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