Drivers’ licenses and vehicle code law

The following information was discussed by Attorney Whitney Hughes on the July 3, 2007 edition of Legal Briefs on KDKA's Pittsburgh Today Live Show.

Driving is a privilege, NOT a right. That privilege can be restricted or terminated by the State for failure to comply with the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.

I received a ticket and the officer told me the offense carries 3 points. How does this affect my driving record and my insurance?

The purpose of the Pennsylvania Point System is to improve driving habits and ensure safe driving. Points are added to a person's driving record when they are found guilty of certain moving violations. Having points on your driving record will make your insurance rates rise as well. PennDOT does not start to take any type of corrective action however, until your driving record has accumulated six or more points. Once you have reached the six point threshold, you will receive written notice that you must take and pass a written examination within 30 days. If you do not pass the examination, your license will then be suspended until you are successful.

My child has just turned 16 and will be getting her learner's permit. What do I need to know?

Individuals 16 and older will receive a learner's permit after they take written and vision tests. They must then wait at least six months in order to accumulate 50 hours of practice driving with an adult before they can then take the driver's test. Once they successfully pass that test, they will have a "Cinderella" license which prohibits driving between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. After a year, they are eligible to obtain a regular license after completing a driver's training course or they must wait until they are 18.

Keep in mind that if you are under 18, and you violate certain vehicle codes or other laws, you will face more severe penalties.

For example:

  • If you are under 18 and exceed the posted speed limit by 26 miles per hour or more, you will automatically lose your license for at least 90 days.
  • The BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is set at a lower level for those under 21. If you have any measurable amount of alcohol in your system, you will be charged with a DUI and will automatically lose your license for one year.
  • If you are a minor and are convicted of possessing or consuming alcohol, lying about your age, or having a false ID to obtain alcohol, you will automatically lose your license for 90 days.

I have elderly parents and I am concerned about their driving safely. Are there any regulations in Pennsylvania concerning older drivers?

Pennsylvania has no regulations that require the elderly be re-tested at any point in time. The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code does, however, require all licensed physicians to report to PennDOT any medical condition that could impair someone's ability to operate a motor vehicle. In addition, PennDOT also has a Mature Driver Re-Examination Program which randomly selects 1650 drivers age 45 and over, and requires them to submit to a physical examination to renew their driver's license. The exam consists of a vision examination and also requires the physician to answer a list of medical questions about the patient as well.

Aside from speaking with your parents and encouraging their doctors to become involved and assess their physical condition, many driver's training companies will also offer safe driving courses for the elderly as well.

I've been trying to find the best price for automobile insurance and finally found a new carrier. I cancelled my old insurance and paid my premium. PennDOT has now sent me a letter asking about my coverage. I am covered - so can I just ignore it?

Absolutely not. Insurance companies are required to inform PennDOT when coverage ends. They are NOT required to inform PennDOT when coverage starts. That being the case, if PennDOT sends a letter of inquiry asking about your insurance coverage, you MUST respond. If you do not respond within the time frame specified in the letter, your registration will be suspended for three months.

My driver's license was suspended, and I have waited the required time frame. Do I automatically get my license back?

No. In order to restore a driver's license that has been suspended, you should contact PennDOT and ask them to send a letter listing your restoration requirements. This list will include all steps necessary to restore the license including payment of the restoration fee. Unless all fines and fees are paid, the license can not be restored. DO NOT DRIVE until you have documentation from PennDOT indicating that your license has in fact been restored.

My license was suspended, but I really need to be able to drive for my job. Is there anything that can be done?

Once in a person's lifetime he/she may be granted a probationary license if his/her driver's license has been suspended for more than five years. This license would allow driving only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. You must have earned at least three years credit toward the suspension, have no driving offenses during this period, and you must complete all required courses and examinations and pay all outstanding fines. In addition, you must have physically turned in your driver's license. If you have not, you will not be given any credit for the time served.

Also keep in mind that this is a non-commercial driver's license (Class C). If you have a commercial driver's license, this provision will not apply.

Are there different types of DUIs? What do I need to know?

DUIs are split into three different categories based on a person's blood alcohol content (BAC). They are as follows:

  • General Impairment - BAC of .08%-.099% (penalties range from probation to up to 2 yrs jail time, treatment, license suspension, and fines of at least $300)
  • High BAC - BAC of .10% to .159% (penalties range from 2 days to 5 yrs jail time, license suspension, treatment and fines from $500 to $10,000)
  • Highest BAC - BAC of .16% and higher (penalties range from 3 days to 5 yrs jail time, treatment, license suspension, and fines of at least $1000)

Pennsylvania is an implied consent state. This means that if you are deemed to be in actual physical control of a vehicle, you are deemed to have given your consent to either a blood, breath, or urine test. If you refuse the test, your license will be suspended for one year—even if you are later found not guilty of the DUI.

Pennsylvania is also part of the Driver's License Compact. Under this agreement, Pennsylvania will recognize DUI convictions that occur in any of the 45 states that are members of the Compact. Your Pennsylvania driver's license will reflect all other convictions in any of these jurisdictions.

If you need to speak to an attorney, call our Lawyer Referral Service at 412-261-5555.