As one of the original 13 colonies in the North and Mid-Atlantic region, Pennsylvania is quite densely populated at 9th in the country with the 6th largest population of any state. Although it does not border the Atlantic it does contend with the Appalachian Mountains through the middle of the state and can have some wild weather patterns. With 37% of all local and rural roads in the state rated as poor to mediocre in the last national road report, ensuring your car safety in the state is important.
Mountains, Plains, Rivers and a Great Lake
With five distinct geographic zones, it is neither the most or least diverse of all landscapes in the US but can definitely offer travelers challenges. Its five geographic zones include the Allegheny Plateau, Ridge and Valley, Atlantic Coastal Plain, Piedmont and the Erie Plain. In each zone you can expect different terrain and different weather patterns.
The Allegheny Plateau is a region from the southwest corner of the state almost diagonally to the northeast corner and includes both glaciated and unglaciated portions of the plateau. The elevation changes in the unglaciated portions can reach up to 400 feet providing large relief structures while the glaciated portion, the majority of the central-west part of the state has little elevation changes providing rich farm land. The Ridge and Valley Appalachians follow the southern border of the Allegheny Plateau from the northeast of the state to the central south of the state in a long narrow strip of high ridges and low valleys. Driving in these high elevation change areas in the winter can be dangerous as the passes can be snow covered while the valleys are clear.
The Atlantic Coastal Plain only reaches the very south-eastern portion of the state in Philadelphia to Levittown corridor. As Pennsylvania is the only original colony not to have an Atlantic Ocean coastline, this small strip of land still reaps the benefits from this flat coastal plain and its moderating weather. Philadelphia is the only region in the state that can enjoy elements of a humid subtropical climate, whereas the rest of the state has a humid continental climate. Beside the coastal plain and the Ridge and Valley Appalachians is the Piedmont Plateau that covers much of the south-east corner of the state, except Philadelphia. It is punctuated by low rolling hills.
The Erie Plain is comprises the north-west tip of the state that touches Lake Erie and is only 2 to 4 miles wide. Yet the area is considered some of the most fertile farmland as the plain was developed by glaciers that deposited rich sediments. Within these five zones there are mountains, forests, heavily populated urban areas and more rural areas.
With weather that can produce large snow blizzards in the north west of the state to its frequent summer time tornadoes to its significant precipitation driving can always be a challenge. Learn your route, prepare for the season of the year and the areas you will be travelling to and understand that rural roads may be in ill-repair.
Choice No Fault Insurance System
The choice no fault insurance system in Pennsylvania actually allows drivers to choose between traditional tort law coverage or opt in to the states no fault coverage option. If you choose the traditional insurance coverage you have to be aware that your insurance premiums will be higher and you will need to cover all your medical expenses should you get into an accident and be injured. This coverage means if you are at fault, you will likely not recoup your expenses for your own injuries and may be required to cover the expenses of the other party in a private settlement or through legal court dispensations.
If you opt for the no fault options your own personal injuries will be covered by your insurance even if you are at fault. With the no fault system, each driver would make a claim against their own insurance coverage to recover expenses for property damage or injuries. However, you can go outside the no fault system, if you are seriously injured including permanent disfigurement or disability. Yet eligible injuries are confirmed during the court case.
Comprehensive DUI Tiered System
The Pennsylvania DUI system was put into place within the last decade to be more comprehensive in its penalties, rehabilitation and application. With three tiers of DUIs there is no all or nothing like other state systems. A number of states delineate 0.08% as the DUI cut-off with no upper echelons for penalty, while many other states have a two tiered system for over the national limit and another high level limit. Pennsylvania has three-tiers to their system: 0.08%-0.099%, 0.1%-0.159% and over 0.16%. Each tier comes with ever increasing penalties.
However all tiers include drug and alcohol treatment programs, alcohol safety courses and ignition interlock devices in their respective tiers beside jail, fines and license suspensions. This makes the Pennsylvania system very comprehensive in how they deal with DUIs for alcohol or drugs in their state. Yet the system only has a maximum limit of 18 month license suspensions, much less than the lifetime bans available in some states. As well besides vehicular homicide as a result of a DUI, no DUIs result in felony charges in Pennsylvania.
Do Not Go Over 6
Pennsylvania treats their driving record demerit point system differently as well. If you receive 6 or more demerit points you will be required to pass a safety test within 30 days for the first time. For subsequent totals over 6 demerits you will be required to appear before a hearing that will determine your license’s fate, including restricted driving and possible suspension. You can remove points with a 12 month clean driving record with a subtraction of 3 points and if you are clear of violations with 0 points subsequent point issues will be treated as a first offense.
Did You Know That…
1. Pennsylvania was home to the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.
2. Hershey Chocolates were founded there in 1907.
3. To get a full license at 17 ½ years old you need to take drivers education.
4. It is the only original 13 colony without Atlantic Ocean access.
5. 5 of your 65 behind the wheel training hours with your Learner Permit have to be in inclement weather.
6. Yuengling and Son Brewery were founded in 1829 and is the oldest brewery in the US.
7. As a Choice No Fault state you can still choose traditional tort insurance.
8. Pennsylvania is a commonwealth state, only 1 of 4 in the US.
9. A three-tiered DUI system will ensure you are penalized financially, physically and then rehabilitated.
10. There are no felony DUI charges in the state, except in rare grievous injury or death-causing accidents involving a DUI driver.