In the Quaker State, drinking and driving is a serious offense. Any person found drinking and driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 percent or above will be considered to be driving under the influence. But it doesn’t stop there. Pennsylvania’s Driving under the Influence (DUI) Law treats alcohol impairment at three levels: General, High BAC and Highest BAC. If you are found with a higher BAC, you face especially stiff penalties.
Pennsylvania’s DUI law attempts to go beyond suspending driving privileges and imposing penalties. The Pennsylvania law centers on treatment for those convicted of a first DUI violation, as a means of preventing future offenses. Whether Pennsylvania is successful in decreasing accidents as a result of the new laws remains to be seen.
Pennsylvania’s DUI Law
These are the three tiers of Pennsylvania’s DUI Law:
- General Impairment: BAC of .08 – .099 percent
- High BAC: BAC of .10 – .159 percent
- Highest BAC: BAC of .16 percent and higher
Your BAC level, along with any prior offenses will determine your penalties.
For all first and second time offenders, alcohol highway safety school is mandatory under Pennsylvania’s DUI law.
If you are a commercial driver, school bus driver or you drive a school vehicle, and are involved in an accident that causes property damage or causes injuries to anyone, you are at risk of being penalized at the ‘high’ level, even if your BAC is not in the high category.
The same holds true for minors.
If you are caught drinking and driving and refuse a breath test, you may be charged with the highest BAC penalties.
If you are convicted of DUI in Pennsylvania, your driver’s license will be suspended and your insurance company has the right to revoke your auto insurance policy.
Pennsylvania’s mandatory insurance requirements
Auto insurance is mandatory in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth. Drivers must prove financial responsibility, as defined by Pennsylvania law.
Therefore, to drive in Pennsylvania, you must carry the minimum auto insurance coverage of:
- $15,000 – one person injured or killed in an accident
- $30,000 –per each accident
Penalties for driving without the required auto insurance minimum
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (DOT), the following actions can be taken if you are caught driving without the minimum coverage:
- Suspension of your vehicle registration
- Suspension of your driver’s license
Who is liable
Pennsylvania is a choice no-fault state. In a choice no-fault state, you have the choice of being insured under your auto insurance policy as a Full Tort or Limited Tort policy. According to the Pennsylvania Insurance Department, you can save on your auto insurance premium with Limited Tort, but you waive the right to certain damages.
While Full Tort coverage is more expensive, a Full Tort policy allows unlimited lawsuits against the person who caused a car crash.
Lowering your auto insurance premium
While these are ways to lower the cost of your insurance premium, consult with your auto insurance agent to determine the best coverage. It’s important to understand the consequences of not increasing your deductible, eliminating certain coverages or purchasing the optional coverages.
Ask your agent or auto insurance company what discounts they offer. Many companies offer discounts for multiple vehicles, bundled insurance packages such as auto/home/life/health insurance policies or having anti-theft devices installed on your vehicle. Also, if you have a young driver on your policy, inquire if your company gives “good student” discounts.
Pennsylvania law requires that you must carry mandatory minimum auto liability coverage if you are renting a car. If you often rent vehicles for weekend getaways or other pleasure trips, your policy may apply to your rental car, provided that you are using the car for pleasure and not business. Discuss with your insurance company or agent whether or not your policy provides sufficient damage coverage in the event that you are in an accident with a rental vehicle or it is stolen.
If you are unable to obtain Pennsylvania auto insurance
You may find that you qualify for Pennsylvania’s Assigned Risk Plan, if you can’t find auto insurance coverage on your own. All Pennsylvania insurance companies writing automobile insurance are required to participate in the plan. The program will assign you to an insurance company. For more information, call the plan’s customer service office at (401) 946-2800 or toll-free (800) 477-6146.
Average annual cost of insurance
The 2011 average annual premium for Pennsylvania auto insurance is $1,468.00, which is somewhat lower than the national average of $1,561.00.
Insurance Information Institute www.iii.org
PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services www.dmv.state.pa.us/legislation/dui.shtml#impairment
Pennsylvania Department of Insurance