State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan reminds motorists to "steer clear" of police, emergency responders, road crews and tow-truck operators while they carry out their duties.
"When you see law enforcement personnel stopped to write citations or responding to crashes and disabled vehicles, please make sure you proceed with caution and pass on the left," Noonan said. "It could be a matter of life or death for the first responder."
In August 2013, a state police trooper was injured when a motor home struck the rear of his patrol car on the shoulder of Interstate 78 in Lebanon County. Another state trooper was hurt when he was struck by an SUV while issuing a citation to a motorist along Interstate 81 in Dauphin County.
Noonan reminded drivers that Pennsylvania's Steer Clear Law requires motorists to move to a lane that is not immediately adjacent to an emergency response area. Such areas include locations where police are making traffic stops, where highway or construction workers are involved in emergency assistance, or where tow trucks are responding to disabled vehicles.
If drivers cannot move over because of traffic or other conditions, they must proceed at a speed that is "reasonable and prudent," according to the law.
The law applies any time an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing and where road crews or emergency personnel have lighted flares or have posted signs or other traffic control devices.
Failure to move over or slow down can result in a summary offense that carries a fine of up to $250. In addition, fines will be doubled for other traffic violations occurring in these areas. If the violation leads to a first responder being injured, a 90-day license suspension could result.
"Our goal is not to write citations, but make sure our personnel are safe," Noonan said.
Customers to Receive Snowmobile, ATV Renewals Faster with New PennDOT, DCNR Partnership (updated 7/19/13)
PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch and Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Acting Secretary Ellen Ferretti recently announced that customers will receive their ATV and snowmobile vehicle registration renewals two to four weeks faster through a new interagency partnership.
In July, PennDOT's state-of-the-art processing and mailing technology began processing DCNR's renewals for consumer snowmobile, ATV and dealer registrations, resulting in customers receiving products within two weeks. Applicants must still mail applications to DCNR, but they are now opened, processed and fulfilled by PennDOT.
"This is a prime example of our efforts through Next Generation to modernize our operations and reduce overlaps in service with other agencies," Schoch said. "With DCNR using PennDOT's existing resources, the process will still be invisible to our customers, but their tax dollars will be paying for a more efficient process."
Previously, registration quarterly renewals were issued and received by DCNR. Upon receiving the registration they were manually processed by staff, generally allowing for a four- to six-week processing time before ATV and snowmobile owners would receive their updated registration.
With temperatures rising and more motorcycles traveling on Pennsylvania roadways, PennDOT is urging motorists to share the road and watch out for motorcycles throughout the riding season.
"I urge all motorists to use common sense, obey the law and keep their attention solely on the task of driving," PennDOT Secretary Barry J. Schoch said. "Our message to all drivers and motorcyclists is to share in the responsibility of keeping all road users safe, and do your part by safely sharing the road."
To help avoid crashes with motorcycles, drivers should treat motorcycles as full-size vehicles with the same privileges as motorists. Motorcycles should be allowed a full-lane width - never try to share a lane - and provided with extra space since motorcycles can stop faster than automobiles. Motorists should also signal their intentions before changing lanes or merging with traffic, and be especially watchful for approaching motorcycles.
Motorists are cautioned that because of motorcycles' size, they can be hidden by larger vehicles or be difficult to see. Drivers should also remember that road and weather conditions that are typically minor annoyances to motorists can pose major hazards to motorcyclists.
Motorcyclists should wear appropriate, brightly colored protective gear, using stickers or reflective tape to increase visibility; use turn signals combined with hand signals for every turn or lane change; and position themselves in the lane where they will be most visible to other drivers and never ride while impaired.
PennDOT data shows that nearly 4,000 crashes involving motorcycles occurred on Pennsylvania roadways in 2012, resulting in 210 motorcyclist fatalities. The number of registered motorcycles in Pennsylvania increased in 2012 by more than 5,500, while the number of licensed motorcyclists increased by more than 8,000.
Additional safety tips for motorists sharing the road with motorcycles are available on PennDOT's website, www.DriveSafePA.org, under the Traffic Safety Information Center. Motorcyclists can find information on safety and training by visiting PennDOT's interactive motorcycle website, www.LiveFreeRideAlive.com.
Governor Corbett Proclaims May Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month (Updated 5/6/13)
With the increasing popularity of motorcycling in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett has signed a proclamation commemorating May as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.
"More people are traveling Pennsylvania roadways on their motorcycles, but it's important that riders and motorists alike are sharing the road safely," Corbett said. "If car, truck and motorcycle operators follow simple steps like looking out for each other and obeying speed limits, we can work together to reduce the number of crashes and highway deaths we see each year."
Last year in Pennsylvania there were 854,493 licensed motorcyclists, a 13 percent increase from a decade ago, and 409,017 registered motorcycles, 54 percent higher than a decade ago. PennDOT data shows there were nearly 4,000 crashes involving motorcycles statewide last year, resulting in 210 fatalities. This marks an increase from 2011 when there more than 3,600 crashes involving motorcycles and 199 fatalities in those crashes.
Motorcycle safety was emphasized with Corbett's signing of Act 84 of 2012, which requires motorcycle permit holders under 18 years old to take and successfully complete the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program's (PAMSP) Basic Rider Course (BRC) in order to receive their license.
The 15-hour BRC consists of five hours of in-class instruction and 10 hours of practical riding experience. The course provides valuable training for new riders and gives experienced riders the opportunity to polish their skills and correct any unsafe riding habits they may have developed. Students taking the BRC are provided with a motorcycle and helmet; however, students are responsible for providing all other protective gear. The 15 hours of training count toward the required 65 hours of training a permit holder under 18 must complete in order to receive their license.
The PAMSP offers a variety of training to help develop safe riding skills for all motorcyclists, no matter how experienced or inexperienced the rider. The courses include: the six-hour Basic Rider Course 2 (BRC2); the eight-hour Advanced Rider Course (ARC); and the 12-hour 3-Wheeled Motorcycle Basic Rider Course (3WBRC).
For more information on motorcycle rider training or to schedule a course, visit www.pamsp.com or call 1-800-845-9533, Monday through Friday, between 8 a.m. and noon.
PennDOT Urges Motorists to Avoid Distractions, Focus on Driving (updated 4/12/13)
As part of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, PennDOT today urged motorists to drive distraction free, and reminded drivers of the state's law banning text-based communication while driving.
Distracted driving can include such actions as:
talking on a cell phone or texting;
adjusting devices such as radios and GPSs;
attending to children or pets, and
interacting with other passengers in the vehicle.
While all drivers should avoid distractions; for young, novice drivers, distracted driving can compound the inexperience factor and increase the risk of crash. Last March, a state law went into effect banning text-based communication while driving. Violating the law is a primary offense carrying a $50 fine.
According to PennDOT data, more than 14,600 crashes involved a distracted driver in Pennsylvania in 2012, with 57 deaths in those crashes. Over the past five years, nearly 11 percent of Pennsylvania crashes involved a driver distraction, resulting in more than 300 fatalities statewide.
To help avoid distractions while driving, PennDOT recommends that drivers follow these simple safety tips:
Store or turn off cell phones while driving. If you must make an emergency call, safely pull over to the side of the road.
If traveling alone, set your GPS, radio and temperature controls before hitting the road.
If traveling with pets, be sure that they are properly restrained. Better yet, leave them at home. Even a minor crash can result in a major injury to a pet if it is not properly restrained.
Never operate your vehicle and attend to a child at the same time.
If you drop an object while driving, leave it until you reach your destination.
For more information on distracted driving and the state's anti-texting law, visit www.JustDrivePA.com.
Highway Deaths in 2012 Third-Lowest on Record (updated 04/12/13)
There were 1,310 people killed in crashes on Pennsylvania roads last year, the third-lowest number on record and 24 more than in 2011.
Areas of highway safety, toughened by laws Governor Tom Corbett has signed, also saw reductions in fatalities and crashes.
PennDOT data from police reports also shows that there were 124,062 crashes on Pennsylvania roadways in 2012, a decrease from 125,322 in 2011 and fewer than the 144,542 Pennsylvania crashes 15 years ago.
Following the December 2011 implementation of increased driving safety requirements for young drivers, signed into law by Corbett, fatalities in crashes involving a 16- or 17-year-old driver decreased to 44, 22 fewer than in 2011 and significantly fewer than the 133 such fatalities 15 years ago.
The law increased behind-the-wheel training requirements, placed a limit on the number of passengers a young driver can transport and made not wearing a seat belt a primary offense for young drivers.
Corbett also signed into law a ban on text-based communication while driving, which went into effect in March 2012.
PennDOT crash data shows that crashes involving drivers using phones decreased from 1,152 in 2011 to 1,096 in 2012.
There were eight fatalities in those crashes and 57 fatalities in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2012.
PennDOT has invested $50 million over the last five years for safety improvements at about 4,000 locations.
These include low-cost safety measures such as centerline and edge-line rumble strips; curve-related treatments; sight-distance and intersection improvements; and removing frequently hit trees and other fixed objects.
PennDOT also invests about $20 million annually in state and federal funds for safety education and enforcement efforts statewide.
Fatalities in crashes involving a drinking driver decreased from 391 in 2011 to 377 in 2012, the lowest number in more than 10 years.
There were 57 fatalities in crashes involving distracted drivers, a decrease from 59 in 2011.
Twenty-five fewer people died in hit-guiderail crashes last year, with 137 such fatalities in 2012 and 162 in 2011.
Fatalities in running-red-light crashes declined from 33 in 2011 to 21 in 2012.
Though many fatal crash categories saw fewer fatalities in 2012, there were increases in some areas.
Fatalities in crashes involving drivers 65 years-old or older increased from 244 in 2011 to 276 in 2012.
Pedestrian fatalities increased to 168 in 2012 from 149 in 2011, and motorcyclist fatalities increased to 210 from 199 in that time period.
The lowest number of traffic fatalities ever recorded in Pennsylvania occurred in 2009, when there were 1,256 fatalities.
Driver's license and identification card holders are reminded that they can easily help another person live a fuller, longer life by registering online as an organ donor any time, not just during Donate Life Month.
To add the organ donor designation to an existing driver's license or identification card today, visit www.dmv.state.pa.us and select the "Donate Life Pennsylvania" icon at the bottom of the page.
Once the designation is added, individuals will receive a designation card that they will have to carry with them to affirm organ donor status until they renew or replace their driver's license or identification card.
There is no charge for adding the designation to your driver's license or identification card.
Nearly 46 percent of driver's license and identification card holders are registered organ donors - that's more than 4.4 million Pennsylvanians.
More than 8,300 Pennsylvanians currently await organ transplants.
Driver's license and identification card holders, as well as registered vehicle owners, can also support organ donation programs by donating $1 to the Robert P. Casey Memorial Organ and Tissue Donation Awareness Trust Fund at the time of application and/or renewal.
Proceeds from the fund are used to educate and promote awareness of the organ donor program through non-profit organizations like the Center for Organ Recovery and Education and the Gift of Life Donor Program.
Pennsylvanians have generously donated more than $10 million to the fund to date.