Pennsylvania bill takes aim at driving without insurance

September 23, 2020

Keith Goble

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One bill moving through the Pennsylvania House would relax the punishment for driving a personal vehicle without insurance. The bill sponsor highlights the benefit it could have for certain professional drivers.

Pennsylvania law requires vehicle owners to have and maintain insurance with violators facing a three-month registration suspension. If the vehicle is operated without insurance, vehicle owners also face a three-month license suspension.

Vehicle owners are permitted to pay a $500 civil penalty instead of serving the three-month registration suspension. In order to take advantage of the option, owners must provide proof of current insurance.

Time for change

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance the bill to set a civil penalty instead of license suspension for driving without insurance.

Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny County, says it is not uncommon for lapses in vehicle insurance to occur by accident. He cites application errors, processing errors, notification errors, or “just honest mistakes.”

“Unfortunately, if the vehicle was operated without insurance, there is no similar option to pay a civil penalty instead of serving the three-month license suspension,” Kortz wrote in a memo to House lawmakers.

Kortz said his bill would fix what he describes as a problem. Specifically, HB2478 would allow owners who are able to show proof of current insurance to pay a $500 civil penalty instead of serving the three-month license suspension.

The option would be available to vehicle owners once every five years.

“This change will ensure that accidental lapses in auto insurance do not have to hinder a person’s ability to travel and earn a living,” Kortz wrote.

Help for professional drivers

Kortz said he brought up the driving-without-insurance bill for a constituent. He said the change would help commercial drivers who now face a three-month license suspension, even if the lapse in insurance occurred in their personal vehicle.

Kortz told committee members about a truck driver in his district who was affected by the rule.

“There is no option (to avoid the license suspension,)” Kortz testified. “You are mandatorily suspended for three months.”

“(The truck driver) is taking a 25% hit to his income for this year.”

Committee Chairman Tim Hennessey, R-North Coventry, said the pandemic highlights the necessity to have professional drivers on the job.

“Your constituent is a trucker. We’ve found out in the past six months how essential truckers are,” Hennessey said.

The driving-without-insurance bill awaits further consideration in the House. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania is available.

Keith Goble

Keith Goble has been covering trucking-related laws since 2000. His daily web reports, radio news and “OOIDA’s State Watch” in Land Line Magazine are the industry’s premier sources for information regarding state legislative affairs.