Pennsylvania Traffic Laws (13 Laws Every Driver Should Know About)

Pennsylvania Traffic Laws (13 Laws Every Driver Should Know About)

Don’t want to get a traffic ticket?

Trying to manage your license demerit points?

Want to be a better and safer driver?

Then it’s time to refresh your memory on important Pennsylvania traffic laws. 

Here, we’ll look at 13 laws, including:

  • DUI laws
  • Speed limits
  • Seat belt law
  • Car seat laws
  • Cell phone law
  • And much more!

We’ll also include the penalties for each law — so you know what to expect if you violate any (we hope it doesn’t come to that!)

There’s a lot to cover, so let’s get started!

1. PA DUI Laws

One of the more strict PA traffic laws is driving under the influence (DUI).

Around 30% of drivers aged 16-20 who die in car crashes have been drunk driving. This happens despite the zero-tolerance law in the state. 

Now, to be considered a DUI, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level has to reach:

  • 0.08% and above for drivers 21 years old or older
  • 0.04% and above for drivers that hold a commercial license
  • 0.02% and above for drivers that are below 21 years old

The penalties are determined based on your BAC level:

  • BAC is 0.08% to 0.099% – general impairment
  • BAC is 0.10% to 0.159% – high BAC
  • BAC is 0.16% and higher – highest BAC

Under the general impairment bracket (0.08% – 0.099%), here are the penalties: 

OffenseFineProbation/Jail TimePrograms
1st$300Up to 6 months probationAlcohol highway safety school,
treatment (if required)
2nd$300 – $2,50012 months license suspension,
5 days to 6 months in jail
Alcohol highway safety school, treatment (if required), 
1-year ignition interlock device
3rd and subsequent$500 – $5,00012 months license suspension, 
7 years in jail (Deana’s Law)
Treatment (if required), 
1-year ignition interlock device

If your BAC is from 0.10% – 0.159%, here are the penalties:

OffenseFineProbation/Jail TimePrograms
1st$500 – $60012 months license suspension, 
48 hours – 6 months in prison
Alcohol highway safety school,
treatment (if required)
2nd$750 – $5,00012 months license suspension,
30 days to 6 months in jail
Alcohol highway safety school, treatment (if required), 
1-year ignition interlock device
3rd $1,500 – $10,00018 months license suspension, 
7 years in jail (Deana’s Law)
Treatment (if required), 
1-year ignition interlock device
4th and subsequent$1,500 – $10,00018 months license suspension, 
10 years in jail (Deana’s Law)
Treatment (if required), 
1-year ignition interlock device

For BAC levels that are 0.16% and higher, the penalties are much harsher:

OffenseFineProbation/Jail TimePrograms
1st$1,000 – $5,00012 months license suspension, 72 hours – 6 months in prisonAlcohol highway safety school,treatment (if required)
2nd$1,500 – $10,00018 months license suspension,90 days to 5 years in jailAlcohol highway safety school, treatment (if required), 1-year ignition interlock device
3rd and subsequent$2,500 – $10,00018 months license suspension, 7 – 10 years in jail (Deana’s Law)Treatment (if required), 1-year ignition interlock device

To know more about the penalties and DUI laws, check our ‘Pennsylvania DUI Laws’ article here. 

PA Speed Limits

Staying within speed limits not only prevents you from getting a violation but also helps make the roads safer. 

Here are the usual speed limits posted on different roads in Pennsylvania: 

RoadSpeed Limit
Roadways70 mph
School zones15 mph when the lights on the signs are flashing OR during the time period on the sign.
Interstate highwaysChanges every interchange. Always check the posted speed limit. 
Other highwaysChanges every ½ mile interval. Again, always check the posted speed limit. 

Of course, these are just the usual limits. Some roads will have specific speed limits, so make sure that you follow those that are posted. 

For road conditions with rain, snow, or maintenance, avoid reaching the max speed limit posted. This is because the posted speed limits are only for perfect conditions. 

There are fines if you violate the speed limit:

  • $42.50 for roads with a maximum speed limit of 65 mph or higher
  • $35 for roads for any other speed limit
  • An additional $2 per mile is charged for vehicles exceeding 5 miles from the speed limit

PA Headlight and Wiper Law

Did you know that there’s a headlight and wiper law in Pennsylvania?

This law requires all drivers to turn on their headlights when their wipers are continuously or intermittently turned on. Tail lights are also required to be turned on. 

Those who violate this law will get a fine of $25, PLUS court and associated fees. 

PA Passing Laws

There are designated places where you are allowed to pass. These are:

  • Roads with white or yellow dashed lines in between lanes of traffic
  • Roadways where there is sufficient width 
  • When there is a vehicle that is driving at less than normal speed
  • When passing does not make you exceed the speed limit

In general, you are supposed to pass on the left side of the vehicle in front. However, you can pass on the right if: 

  • The vehicle in front is about to make a left turn
  • The roadway has an unobstructed pavement that can accommodate two vehicles side-by-side

Moreover, there are areas where you are not allowed to pass

  • Within 100 feet of or when you are crossing an intersection or railroad crossing (unless stated by a traffic control device)
  • Within 100 feet of any bridge, elevated road, or tunnel
  • You are approaching a curve, hill, or road where the view of the oncoming traffic is obstructed
  • You are on a shoulder of a multi-lane highway
  • The pavement marking is a solid yellow or white line. 

If you pass in these areas, you may receive 3 points on your driver’s license. 

PA Parking Laws

Just like the passing laws, there are areas where you are not allowed to park, stop, or stand. These are: 

  • On the roadway side of a vehicle already parked (double parking)
  • On the sidewalk, intersection, railroad track, or crosswalk
  • Along or opposite any digging or construction area
  • On any bridge, elevated structure, or tunnel
  • Between roadways of a divided highway, including crossovers
  • Within 15 feet of a fire hydrant
  • Within 20 feet of a crosswalk or intersection
  • Within 20 feet of a driveway entrance to a fire station
  • Within 30 feet of any flashing signal, stop or yield sign, or traffic control device
  • Within 50 feet of the nearest rail or railroad crossing
  • On a limited-access highway
  • In front of any public or private driveway
  • On a PWD parking unless you have a disability plate or permit. 

The fine for parking in these restricted areas is $50 for every incident. 

PA Move Over Law

This law requires you to move over to a lane that is not beside or adjacent to an emergency response area or disabled vehicle. 

Emergency response areas are places where emergency vehicles (rescue, police, maintenance, etc) are doing their services. 

If there is no other lane not adjacent to the emergency response area, you are required to reduce speed to at least 20 mph below the posted speed limit. 

Violating this law will result in a fine of up to:

  • $500 for the first offense
  • $1,000 for the second offense
  • $2,000 for subsequent offenses.

These fines are doubled if you are passing a work zone. 

On top of that, you get 2 points on your driving record. 

There’s also a catch to this law – if there are no police officers in the area, other motorists can report you. 

PA Open Bed Law

Is riding on an open bed of a pickup truck illegal? 

The good news is that it’s not. 

However, there are a few laws that apply. 

Passengers 18 and above can stay on the open bed area of a pickup truck as long as the truck is not driven at more than 35 mph. 

A person below 18 can ride in an open bed of a truck if (and only if)

  • They are a child of a farmer or a child employed by a farm who is being transported between parts of a farm/s. 
  • They are a child possessing a valid hunting license who is being transported between hunting sites during hunting season.
  • They are a part of an officially sanctioned parade only during the parade itself.

PA Car Insurance Law

Here’s another very important law: all vehicles are required to have valid car insurance at all times. 

Pennsylvania also requires these minimum coverages: 

  • $15,000 for injury or death of one person for one accident
  • $30,000 for injury or death of more than one person for one accident
  • $5,000 for property damage

Always place the proof of car insurance in your vehicle. 

Proof of insurance may be the original copy of the policy, the insurance ID card, or a copy of the binder with all the information on the policy. You can check for other proof of insurance here.

If you’re caught without a valid insurance policy, your penalties may be any or some of these: 

  • A fine of at least $300
  • A 3-month suspension of your vehicle registration or driver’s license
  • A restoration fee to restore your vehicle registration 
  • A $94 restoration fee for a suspended driver’s license
  • $202 restoration fee to restore your commercial driver’s license

If you are also caught having lapsed insurance, your vehicle registration will be suspended for 3 months. If you don’t want to take this suspension, you can opt to pay a civil penalty fee of $500. 

PA Seat Belt Law

The PA seat belt law is VERY straightforward. 

  • Drivers and passengers in the front seats are REQUIRED to wear a seat belt
  • Passengers aged 8-17 years old MUST wear a seat belt no matter where they are seated, front or back
  • If the driver is below 18 years old, ALL passengers must wear a seat belt, whether at the front or back.

This is one of the more important laws to ensure safety for everyone. 

Sadly, a lot of people forget to follow this law. 

Now, in Pennsylvania, this law is primary enforcement only if the driver is below 18 years old. 

Other than that, it is a secondary enforcement law. 

A secondary law means that you can only be charged for not wearing a seat belt if you’ve already committed another traffic violation. 

Secondary or primary, if you’re caught, the fine is $10 plus additional fees.

PA Car Seat Laws

Special seats — car seats or booster seats — are required for children below 8 years old. 

Here are the PA car seat law specifics:

  • Children below 2 years old MUST be in a rear-facing car seat. They should use this until they reach the max weight and height of the seat.
  • Children 2-4 years old MUST be in a front-facing child safety seat. They should use this until they reach the seat’s max weight and height recommendation. 
  • Children 4-8 years old MUST be in a booster seat. 
  • Children aged 8 up to 17 MUST wear a seat belt at all times, even if they are seated at the back. 

Violators of the car seat law are fined $140 plus court fees. 

This law is also under primary enforcement, so a police officer is allowed to ask you to stop if they see a child unrestrained in a moving vehicle. 

Want to know more? We have a more detailed article on the car seat and seat belt laws here. 

PA Anti-Littering Law

Just by the name itself, you already know that it’s illegal to litter.

But in the lens of traffic laws, it’s illegal to drop, throw, or deposit any litter on the road, public or private, and on the waters of the state. 

If you are caught littering, you will be required to pay $300 for every offense. 

PA Inspection Law

As part of keeping vehicles in their best working condition, Pennsylvania requires all vehicle owners to get a vehicle safety and emissions inspection every 12 months. 

The deadline for the vehicle inspection can be seen on the sticker of your vehicle. 

You can inspect the vehicle as early as 90 days before the deadline. 

Operating a non-inspected, non-commercial vehicle can result in a $25 fine. 

If you’re operating a motor carrier vehicle, bus, or school bus, you will face a fine of $100-$500. What’s more, the police officer can tag this vehicle as ‘out of service’. 

PA Cell Phone Law

And lastly, distracted driving. 

Like DUI, a lot of crashes happen because of distracted driving. 

Distracted driving is any behavior that prevents you from looking at the road, staying focused on driving, or holding the steering wheel. 

Some examples of distracted driving are:

  • Eating or drinking
  • Putting on makeup 
  • Adjusting audio devices
  • Having an argument

NOTE: These distractions are not illegal in and of themselves, but if it causes a crash, then you will be charged with distracted driving. 

That said, the one distracted driving that is a LAW is the use of cell phones. 

Pennsylvania has an anti-texting law where it is illegal to text, write, or read using any interactive wireless communication device while behind the wheel. 

These devices include cell phones, laptops, and tablets. 

Those violating this law will get a $50 fine for every offense. 


And those were the 13 Pennsylvania traffic laws you need to know about!

Remember, these laws are meant to improve the safety of everyone on the road.

So it’s in your best interest to follow them ALL. 

Besides, you don’t want to get points or pay a hefty fine, do you? 

No, you don’t. 

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