With one of the highest populations and top density rates in the US with large urban areas of Philadelphia being 6th largest in the nation and Pittsburgh’s urban area being in the top 30th of the nation its congestion issues are centered in five congested corridors in the state. On the positive side the state’s statistics on highway fatalities is less than the national average per capita but slightly more per road mile.
Congestion and Poor Rural Roads
Although fatality rates on Interstate highways are within national averages, unfortunately due to the nature and condition of Pennsylvanian rural roads fatality rates are two and half times more on these roads than Interstate highways. With 73% of Philadelphia roads in poor to mediocre condition and 66% of Pittsburgh roads in the same condition, it is easy to see why rural roads and congested city roads are to blame for many fatal accidents. Even if you are not involved in a fatal accident, with 37% of roads in the state in poor to mediocre condition and the highest rate of deficient bridges in the nation, you need to be aware of what to do after an accident.
As with any accident in any state, ensure that you or your passengers are not injured before attempting to move your vehicle out of the line of traffic. After you are out of oncoming traffic damage check on any injuries of pedestrians or other drivers and call emergency services if needed. After these most important issues are taken care of, review the accident scene and exchange information with all parties including possible witnesses. These witnesses could mean the difference between a settlement for damages and nothing.
As a “choice no fault” state, there will be some initial questions after an accident to determine how to proceed as well. If you have no fault protection and are not grievously injured you will most likely just claim your own insurance. If you have opted for traditional tort insurance or have received a serious injury like permanent disfigurement or impairment, you will want to contact a car accident attorney as soon as possible to pursue your legal options.
With a traditional tort insurance you can attempt to settle the claim out of court with a third party claim or direct with the other driver if you received minor property damage or injuries. If who is at fault is unclear you may need to litigate, but discuss it with a lawyer before making this decision.
Modified Comparative Negligence
As a choice no fault insurance system with modified comparative fault rules, you can typically recover damages under tort insurance if you are less at fault than the other party. However, discovering this subjective fault line is where most settlements devolve into lawsuits in complex accidents. With a modified negligence rule in Pennsylvania you also need to be under 50% at fault to receive any damage awards from insurance settlements or court awards.
Driver Points Program
A unique driver points program, Pennsylvania gives its drivers an incentive to stay demerit point free. If you stay demerit point free from traffic violations for a minimum of 12 months, they will trim 3 points from your record and if you keep zero points for a year they will treat subsequent point offenses as if they were your first.
If you reach 6 points, from traffic violations you will need to write a safety exam within 30 days. If you pass this test, 2 points will be removed from your record, however if you fail, your license will be suspended until you pass. Second and third occurrences passing 6 points result in a PennDOT mandatory hearing and potential 15 or 30 day license suspension respectively. If you fail to appear to a hearing a license suspension will follow. Over 11 points results in suspension days per point on your driving record, starting at 5 days per point for a first time over 11 points to a 1 year suspension for a 4th occurrence.
Three-Tier DUI System
A general DUI is charged when your BAC chemical test is within 0.08%-0.099% and results in the following penalties:
- 1st offense – 6 months’ probation, $300 fine, alcohol and drug treatment, and mandatory highway safety school
- 2nd offense – 1 year license suspension, 5 days to 6 months in prison, ignition interlock device for 1 year, mandatory drug and alcohol treatment program and highway safety course
- 3rd offense – 2nd degree misdemeanor charge, 1 year driver’s license suspension, prison 10 days to 2 years, $500-$5000 fine, ignition interlock for 1 year and alcohol and drug treatment.
The other two tiers include a high BAC of 0.10%-0.159% and the highest BAC of over 0.16% and any other controlled substances. These two tiers include harsher penalties than those listed above including up to 1.5 years license suspension, up to 5 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine as well as the mandatory courses, treatment and interlock device.
Although not a felony in the state and a maximum license suspension of 18 months, the inclusion of mandatory drug and alcohol treatment and ignition interlock device requirements, the DUI laws in Pennsylvania are quite complete.