Pennsylvania bills, law cover efforts to improve road safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 11/25/2015

As highways throughout the nation will be filled this week with people traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday, multiple efforts pursued in the Pennsylvania General Assembly are intended to improve safety along the state’s roadways.

Gov. Tom Wolf has signed into law one bill to toughen penalties for distracted or aggressive driving in construction zones.

Highway users driving carelessly in affected areas who injure highway workers would face fines up $1,000. Offenders who cause serious injury to highway workers would face $5,000 fines and a six-month license suspension. Violators who cause the death of a worker would be responsible for a fine up to $10,000 and loss of driving privileges for one year.

Previously SB887, the new law also expands the definition of “highway workers” to include emergency personnel, local government and municipal workers, state troopers and other law enforcement personnel, and contractors or utility company workers.

Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Washington, calls the frequency of incidents in work zones “troubling.”

“By strengthening the penalties for reckless drivers, we can help limit the dangers faced by the men and women who help maintain our vital infrastructure.”

The new rule takes effect in late May.

Another bill halfway through the statehouse covers the duty of passengers in a vehicle to render aid to anyone injured in a wreck.

Pennsylvania law now requires passengers to provide aid to an injured person if the driver is physically unable to do so.

Sponsored by Sen. Gene Yaw, R-Lycoming, the bill would require passengers to contact emergency personnel and render “reasonable assistance” in cases where drivers “refuse” or “neglect” to offer aid.

Drivers found to be in violation of the rule would face up to one year behind bars. Passengers would face up to 90 days in jail.

The bill awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee. Senate lawmakers already SB146 on a 48-1 vote.

A separate bill would boost fines for littering around roadways.

Sen. Mario Scavello, R-Mount Pocono, said he believes the current fine system is not a proper deterrent for the crime.

State law now set fines for littering between $50 and $300. Repeat offenders face fines up to $1,000.

His bill would set up a tier system for littering violations. Littering of up to 5 pounds would carry fines between $50 and $300. Offenders who improperly discard items up to 100 pounds would face fines between $300 and $500. Littering items in excess of 100 pounds could result in fines ranging from $500 to $1,000.

Repeat offenders who litter items weighing up to 5 pounds would face fines ranging from $500 to $1,000. The next two tiers of littering violations would carry fines between $500 and $1,000, and $1,000 and $2,000.

Scavello’s bill, SB973, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Pennsylvania, click here.

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