Whether you recently moved to Pennsylvania, you just got your driver’s license, or you’re looking for a new insurance policy, you should know a few things about Pennsylvania auto insurance.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind about financial responsibility, minimum coverage, and unique laws affecting drivers, whether you’re in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, or Altoona.
What Does “Financial Responsibility” Mean in Pennsylvania?
To drive legally in the Keystone State, you must buy and keep auto insurance. This is referred to as maintaining “financial responsibility” for a vehicle.
If you hit the road in Pennsylvania without auto insurance, you could get your vehicle registration suspended for three months, says the state’s insurance department. But if the lapse in coverage lasted less than 31 days and it can be proven that your vehicle wasn’t driven during that lapse, then your vehicle registration may remain intact.
If the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) determines you drove your vehicle without the required insurance, you will be required to give them your car’s license plate and registration sticker, along with your driver’s license. Additionally, you’ll have to pay fees and provide proof of insurance before PennDOT will return your documents.
What if a law enforcement officer stops you and finds out that you’re driving without insurance? According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, you could face:
- A minimum fine of $300
- A three-month suspension of your vehicle registration
- A three-month suspension of your driver’s license
- Fees to restore your vehicle registration and driver’s license
- Impoundment of your vehicle
What Are the Minimum Coverage Requirements in Pennsylvania?
As in most other states, Pennsylvania has minimum limits for different types of car insurance coverage:
- Medical benefits — This pays medical bills for you and other people who are covered by your policy, regardless of who’s at fault. The minimum coverage limit is $5,000.
- Limited or full tort — Tort coverage allows you to file a lawsuit for personal pain and suffering, lost wages, or ongoing issues following a not-at-fault accident. With limited tort coverage, you can save money on your premiums and still able to recover all out-of-pocket medical and other expenses, but you aren’t able to sue for certain damages (such as payments for pain and suffering) unless the injuries meet certain guidelines. With full tort coverage, you hold unrestricted rights to file a lawsuit connected to an auto accident.
- Bodily injury liability — If you injure someone in a car accident, this coverage pays their medical and rehabilitation expenses, and pays for any damage that you’re responsible for. The minimum limit is $15,000/$30,000. The $15,000 covers injuries to one person; the $30,000 is the maximum payout for one accident.
- Property damage liability — If you damage someone’s property in an accident and you’re at fault, this coverage pays for it. The minimum limit for this coverage is $5,000.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Insurance, some insurers offer a single limit of $35,000 that meets the minimum requirements for bodily injury liability and property damage liability.
What Are Some Rules of the Road in Pennsylvania?
Like other states, Pennsylvania imposes speed limits, cracks down on drunk driving, and regulates other driving behavior. But several rules of the road are unique to the Keystone State:
- Tough on texting and driving: A law signed in 2016 toughened penalties for serious driving-while-texting violations. Currently, a Pennsylvania motorist who causes a fatal accident due to texting while driving faces up to five years in prison. If a texting-while-driving accident results in serious injuries, the responsible motorist could be sent to prison for up to two years.
- More kids in car seats: In 2016, Pennsylvania changed its law regarding the safety of child passengers. Now, it’s mandatory for children to be buckled into a rear-facing car seat until age 2, or until they meet weight or height requirements established by the maker of the seat.
- More consequences for a DUI: A Pennsylvania law enacted in 2016 requires all convicted drunk drivers with a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.10 percent to install ignition interlock devices (in-car breathalyzers) for one year. Before that, ignition interlock devices were mandated only for repeat DUI offenders.
- No headphones: It’s illegal for a motorist to wear headphones or earphones while driving in PA.De-ice or pay up: If snow or ice falls from your vehicle, and then it hits another car or a pedestrian and causes death or serious injury, you can be fined up to $1,000.
- De-ice or pay up: If snow or ice falls from your vehicle, and then it hits another car or a pedestrian and causes death or serious injury, you can be fined up to $1,000.
Surprised by how particular Pennsylvania’s rules of the road are? Don’t be even more surprised when you get ticketed for driving without proof of car insurance!