Safe driving is a top concern for Pennsylvania residents and authorities. Being aware of the conditions and factors affecting driving safety can help prevent accidents and keep everyone safe on the roads. As a driver, it is important to be aware of the latest statistics, facts, trends, and laws regarding driving safety, so you can make informed decisions and take the necessary precautions.
Facts about the Dangers of Driving in Pennsylvania
Recent data shows that, in Pennsylvania, auto accidents were more likely to occur in dry road conditions and good weather. The most common types of accidents involved hitting a fixed object, such as a tree or shrub, and were more likely to occur on weekends, particularly in the month of December. Most accidents occurred in the late afternoon to early evening (2-5 PM), and the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day saw the highest number of collisions.
The most fatalities from traffic accidents in Pennsylvania occurred in similar conditions, such as clear weather and dry roads, with vehicles hitting trees or shrubs. Fatalities were most common in the month of June, on Fridays or Saturdays, and in the early afternoon. Drunk driving-related accidents and fatalities decreased over the past few years but remain a significant issue.
Common Types of Car Accidents and Injuries to Drivers and Passengers
The most common types of car accidents in Pennsylvania include rear-end collisions, T-bone accidents, and head-on collisions. These accidents can result in various injuries to drivers and passengers, ranging from minor whiplash to more serious, life-threatening injuries. Many of these accidents are caused by factors such as distracted driving, failure to yield, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Safe Driving: Best Ways to Prevent Car Accidents
To prevent car accidents, drivers should:
Always pay attention to the road.
Distracted drivers put themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the roadways at risk. One of every 10 fatal crashes in the U.S. is caused by distraction, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This adds up to over 3,000 deaths per year.
Part of this staggering statistic is due to the increased use of mobile devices. According to AAA, cell phone use quadruples the crash risk. Additionally, the National Safety Council warns that hands-free devices aren’t risk-free. A phone conversation can be distracting enough to take your thoughts and eyes away from the important task-at-hand. Whether you use your hands to dial or not, a moment of diversion can be enough to cause a crash.
Every day, this hazard is accountable for nearly nine deaths and 1,000 injuries across the country, explains the CDC. Unfortunately, teenagers make up the largest portion of fatal car accidents caused by distraction, says the National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
Obey the speed limit and adjust your driving according to road conditions.
Road safety experts urge citizens to resist the need for speed. There is continued concern that raising speed limits is dangerous for all drivers and passengers on our streets. For the past 20 years, speeding has been the leading factor in about one-third of all car accident fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. When speed increases, the number and severity of crashes tends to increase as well. “We have routinely seen studies that show when states raise speed limits, they can expect higher deaths,” said Maureen Vogel, spokeswoman for the National Safety Council.
Penn laws on speed restrictions require you to drive at a prudent and reasonable speed for the current conditions. It would be best if you drove at an appropriate and safe speed when:
- Crossing or approaching intersections,
- While approaching a hill crest,
- When special hazards exist concerning weather, pedestrians, other traffic, or highway conditions,
- At rail grade crossings, and
- When approaching or going around a curve.
This law is often called the “assured clear distance” law because it requires you to drive at a speed at which you can stop with an “assured clear distance.” You might be ticketed for rear-ending another motorist as you violated this law by not stopping within the following distance they allowed.
Avoid driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
You’re prohibited by Penn laws from driving while impaired by alcohol and drugs. Fines for driving while impaired depend on your level of impairment and prior offenses and might include:
- Up to about $10,000 or you risk
- Up to five years jail term,
- A year of ignition interlock,
- Eighteen months license suspension, and more.
Whenever you are out with friends or family, make a plan of action for getting home safely when going out with friends. If you are the designated driver, you should feel 100% sure that you can get everyone home safely before getting behind the wheel.
Never get into a car with anyone that has been drinking. Many cabs and public transportation will have discounted services in order to encourage people to use mass transit rather than driving under the influence.
Maintain and utilize their vehicle lights properly.
Your ability to properly signal turns, stops and emergency maneuvers depends on the proper function of your blinkers, taillights and hazard lights. You can verify these systems work by asking someone to activate them for you while you take a walk around your vehicle. During your brief inspection, also make sure your light housings are clear of debris and damage.
If you notice any damage, including standing water in the housing, talk to your auto body technician to acquire repairs. After verifying your lights are in working order, always use them to indicate your intent while driving. Also, remember to flip on your headlights in inclement weather and right before dusk to keep your vehicle highly visible to other vehicles and pedestrians.
Adhere to safe following distances.
Many people forget to utilize the three-second rule while driving, which can result in unsafe following distances. While following other cars too close, you may not have enough time to stop if a hazard appears in front of the vehicles in your path.
To give yourself enough time to stop, follow at a three-second delay when driving on dry surfaces in low traffic conditions. To check your following distance, pick a stationary object ahead and start counting when the vehicle in front of you passes it by. If you pass that object before three seconds have passed, you will need to slow down to adjust your following distance briefly. In hazardous weather, heavy traffic or other potentially risky driving situations, increase your following distance even further.
Utilize high-tech safety features in their vehicles.
If you have a vehicle built in the last five years, you likely have access to a half dozen or more dedicated high-tech safety systems. The time you put into utilizing your lane departure warnings, blind spot alerts and parking assist features will help you avoid collisions in both low and high-risk situations. To ensure you respond to the warnings and alerts appropriately, you should practice the use of these systems in an empty parking lot or side street. Travel at a low speed during your practice session to avoid feeling overwhelmed with the flashing lights or audible alerts when they suddenly occur.
Practice safe merging techniques and stay in the right lane unless passing.
Although it is viewed as rude at first blush, the zipper merge technique is actually the most efficient and safest way to combine two lanes of traffic. Instead of stopping short to merge into the continuing lane early, stay in the lane until arrows appear. Then, turn on your blinker and slow down to match your speed with the vehicles in the adjacent lane before smoothly merging over. If you are already in the continuing lane, move your vehicle forward at a steady, predictable pace and leave enough room for one car to zip in at the merge point.
While driving down roadways with two or more lanes on each side, you can stay out of the way of fast-moving vehicles by piloting your vehicle in the right lane unless you are passing. By traveling in the right lane, you mitigate the risks associated with speed differences between two or more vehicles. Left lane drivers will be able to blast past you without weaving around vehicles, which will also help prevent your involvement in a collision. This practice will help you stay out of legal trouble as well, as it is illegal in many areas to remain in the left lane indefinitely.
Respect for fellow drivers and avoid engaging in aggressive behavior.
Displaying respect for your fellow drivers can help set the tone for your entire drive. You can show your respect for other drivers by offering a wave as thanks for facilitating lane changes and merges. When you notice another driver making a mistake, pilot your vehicle out of harm’s way and remain vigilant. Pointing out the mishap by honking, yelling or gesturing will only increase stress levels and heighten emotions for all parties involved. Your positive attitude can help you avoid road rage-prone drivers while keeping your own stress levels low throughout the drive.
Refrain from using headphones or earphones while driving.
Drivers are prohibited from wearing earphones or headphones. This doesn’t apply to the use of hearing aid-type appliances that are put on one ear. Having both ears blocked from sound creates a perilous situation because you’ve reduced awareness of your surroundings.
Seasonal Weather Considerations and Precautions for Safe Driving
Drivers in Pennsylvania should be prepared for varying seasonal weather conditions, such as rain, flooding, fog, high winds, and winter storms. By staying informed about the forecast, adjusting driving behavior according to weather conditions, and taking precautions such as clearing snow from their vehicles, drivers can increase their safety on the roads.
Spring Rain & Flooding
Rain is the most dangerous driving condition. Vision is impaired, roads are slick, and other drivers are probably behaving unexpectedly. It’s a good idea to replace your windshield wipers every six months to a year to make sure that they are functioning properly so you can maintain vision even in inclement weather. When the roads are wet, it takes longer for your car to adjust; you should drive slower than in clear conditions so that you can steer and brake properly.
Water usually collects on the sides of the road, so you should drive in center lanes to reduce the risk of hydroplaning. Never enter a section of road where the water is too deep to see the ground through, as this can cause severe damage to the electrical system in your car. You should try to drive in tracks left by the cars in front of you, as these areas have better traction. Don’t follow anyone, especially large vehicles, too closely as their tires can spray water onto your windshield and make it impossible for you to see.
Fall Leaves and Slippery Conditions
Aside from the autumn leaves being a huge distraction, when they’re wet and stuck to the road they can be a whole different problem. Wet leaves make the road conditions less than perfect and prohibit good traction between your car tires and the road surface. If you’re cruising along and checking out the scenery and all of a sudden an animal runs out in the road and you slam on your brakes, but the road is covered in wet leaves, chances are you may lose control and end up in an auto collision.
Remove snow and ice from mirrors, windows, roof, hood, and all vehicle lights before you drive and as often as needed. Please, note that ice and snow are the “big two” when it comes to elements that damage your car’s paint. It will help if you contact an automobile body shop for a paintwork repair for scuffs, scratches, and dents.
The weather can be unpredictable around here, but drivers are asked to check for updates regarding approaching winter storm systems. State officials can’t promise that roadways will be secure as precipitation is falling, so it’s important to stay updated on severe weather watches, advisories, and warnings.
- Winter Storm Watch – indicates the potential of hazardous weather in general. Significant winter weather can include 5 to 7 inches of snow predicted, damaging ice accumulation, or a combination of precipitation and strong winds. The exact location and time for the expected weather event are still undetermined.
- Winter Weather Advisory – is issued when freezing rain, 2 to 4 inches of snow and the potential for significant inconvenience on the roads is forecasted.
- Severe Weather Warning – is issued when significant, hazardous winter weather – freezing temperatures, low wind chill, blizzard activity, winter storms, and ice storms – is imminent.
During the summer cars are subjected to additional stress because of the heat. You can decrease the risk of a breakdown or a collision by getting your vehicle tuned up now. Summer sun ruins the rubber on windshield wipers; if they’re already in bad condition, have them replaced. Dusty road conditions can choke up engines and decrease engine efficiency and cause damage so we also recommend getting the filters checked. You should also get the oil changed and fluids refilled.
Because high temperatures increase the occurrence of tire blow outs, this is a good time to have your tires rotated and check the tire pressure and treads. Try the penny test to see if your treads are worn down or unsafe. If your tires are bald, don’t wait until the winter to change them as hydroplaning in a summer storm is just as dangerous as driving on snow and ice.
Brakes and brake pads are imperative; they should be inspected regularly, not just in the summer. You’ll also want to generally look over the car and make sure headlights, turn signals, brake lights and any trailer equipment for towing a camper or boat are all working properly. If your vehicle hasn’t been serviced recently, or you don’t know its service history, schedule a maintenance check with your mechanic as soon as possible.
If you are driving in fog, make sure that you turn off your high beams, as these will reflect on the fog and make it impossible to see. Instead, use your fog lights. Since visibility is reduced, it is a good idea to make use of noises by turning off the radio and opening the windows; this way you can listen for braking vehicles or motorists coming up behind you. As in any dangerous road condition, you should drive slowly and cautiously. It is a good idea to drive in the right-most lane so that you do not risk driving into oncoming traffic.
Be prepared to account for the extra force being applied to your vehicle when driving in high wind conditions. You will have to over correct when steering to compensate for the directional force of the wind depending on which way it is forcing your vehicle. The faster you are going, the more the wind will affect your vehicle. You should avoid driving next to other vehicles, especially large trucks or SUVs, as a sudden wind could force them to swing out and hit you. Be cognizant of your vehicle and those around you.
Stay up to Date on Road Conditions
PennDot has provided some tools to help drivers in Pennsylvania decide when it’s safe to drive and plan their route accordingly in case of inclement weather. The 511 Travel Info on the Go website and mobile app provide accurate information on current road conditions and the real-time position of the snowplows working to clear streets around the state. This information is free and up to date 24 hours a day. Before heading out, you should check the live traffic cameras on the major highways and the traffic conditions map.
Laws and Proposed Legislation to Improve Road Safety in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania laws regulate speeding, impaired driving, seatbelts usage, and driving distractions such as texting-while-driving. Proposed new legislation includes stricter penalties for repeat DUI offenses and cell phone usage restrictions. Young driver laws in Pennsylvania aim to reduce accidents and fatalities among novice drivers.
Pennsylvania Texting While Driving Ban
In 2012, Pennsylvania effectively banned texting while driving. Any drivers in the commonwealth caught sending or reading text messages while their vehicle is in motion were subject to a fine of $50 plus any related court costs. The Texting-While-Driving Ban also covers email and other forms of electronic messages which can be sent via an interactive wireless communication device, such as a smartphone or tablet.
But not everyone is satisfied with this law. This is because it’s difficult to enforce, fines are minimal, and it only limits some types of distraction. For example, the texting ban does not limit talking on a mobile phone or using a GPS navigator while driving. It also carries no points as a penalty for violations unless it can be prosecuted as a reckless driving or vehicular homicide charge. Though more than 100 citations are made each month, law enforcement agents in Pennsylvania say that violations are hard to prove making the law ineffective.
Changes to Local DUI Laws
It’s important for Pennsylvania residents to know what is actually changing. The primary change to the DUI law in our state is the penalty for repeat offenses. It doesn’t apply to the first offense or the second offense. When legislators describe a high-risk individual in DUI cases, they mean people who have prior convictions and have repeated their actions at least three times.
The first change to the law is in the terminology. If someone gets a DUI three times, it’s now considered a felony offense. This applies in cases where someone was injured or killed by the driver or in cases where the police have previously pulled the individual over. In previous years, DUI convictions were not classified as a felony, regardless of the number of times an individual was charged with drinking and driving.
The second change is the punishment for the death of another person resulting from driving under the influence. If someone gets into an accident while intoxicated and it causes someone’s death, they will have a minimum sentence of five years for a first DUI offense and a minimum of seven years if it’s a repeat offense.
Pennsylvania’s Young Driver Law
Pen licenses a young driver through a three-staged program that reflects the driver’s gradual progression in experience, skill, and decision-making ability. The law has effectively reduced fatalities and crashes for 16- and 17-year-old drivers.
Click here to learn more about PennDOT’s highway safety laws.
Drive Safely Pennsylvanians
Driving safety is a shared responsibility for all Pennsylvania residents. By staying informed about driving safety trends and following best practices, drivers can help reduce accidents and fatalities on Pennsylvania roads. As a driver, it is important to be aware of seasonal weather changes and related precautions, know and adhere to existing laws and proposed new legislation, and put extra effort into ensuring the safety of yourself, your passengers, and others on the road.
Badell’s Collision has proudly served Chester and Delaware Counties with outstanding collision repairs since 2003. With locations in Aston and Malvern, we’re prepared to provide you with exceptional service no matter what kind of damage your car has endured. Stop by one of our shops or use our simple online estimate form. We look forward to helping you!