Pennsylvania bill to revise ‘Steer Clear’ law advances

October 19, 2020

Keith Goble

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An effort to improve safety on Pennsylvania’s roadways via the “Steer Clear” law continues to move through the statehouse.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to revamp the Steer Clear law. The bill, SB1281, awaits further consideration in the House.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Adams County, says revisions to the Steer Clear law are needed due to an increased number of incidents.

“We have a problem in Pennsylvania, and it needs to end,” Mastriano said during a previous news conference.

Mastriano said the Pennsylvania State Police reports there were 7,075 citations issued under the Steer Clear law during the most recent two-year period. An additional 3,204 warnings were issued during that time.

He added that nationwide there have been 35 construction workers and emergency personnel killed this year in work zones.

Among the changes being sought is rebranding the Steer Clear rule as a “Move Over” law. Other changes include setting a new point system and increasing fine amounts.

Current Steer Clear rule

Since 2001, Pennsylvania statute requires all drivers to slow down and to move into a lane not adjacent to an emergency response area anytime an emergency vehicle has its lights flashing and where road crews or emergency personnel have lighted flares, posted signs or try to warn travelers. The maneuver is required when possible.

If motorists are unable to move over because of traffic or other conditions, the rule states they must reduce their speed.

Offenders could face fines up to $250.

Steer Clear rule changes

In an effort to address concerns about a rising number of violations, the Legislature revisited the Steer Clear law in 2017.

At the time, statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation showed violations of the to the Steer Clear law increased by more than 85 % from 2013 to 2015.

Changes made to the rule three years ago included doubling the fine for repeat offenders to $500. Subsequent offenses would result in $1,000 fines.

In addition, a 90-day license suspension was added for a third or subsequent offense. The license suspension would also be applied to any incident that results in serious bodily injury to or death of another person.

“The new point system will increase the pain,” Mastriano said. “If you don’t move the heck over, you are going to have some severe consequences on your license.”

One more round of changes

This year’s version is sponsored by Mastriano and Senate Transportation Committee Chair Kim Ward, R-Hempfield. Their bill is intended to clarify how travelers should react when approaching or passing an emergency response area.

Specifically, drivers approaching an emergency response area who are unable to safely merge into a lane further away from the affected area would be required to travel at a speed at least 20 mph less than the posted limit.

Existing law only requires a driver to pass the affected area at a “careful and prudent reduced speed.”

Mastriano said that the bill would put more “teeth into the punishments.

Specifically, a new point system would result in two points for failure to move over in an emergency response area.

Additionally, fines would be doubled for a summary offense: $500 for first-time offenders; $1,000 for a second offense and $2,000 for a third offense.

If approved by the full House, SB1281 would head back to the Senate for approval of changes before moving to the governor’s desk.

Expanded application sought

Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Mt. Lebanon, has introduced a separate bill that covers the Steer Clear rule.

The bill, SB1345, would apply the rule to any disabled vehicle that “adequately displays” at least two of three safety markings. Qualified markings are blinkers, road flares, and/or caution signs.

“Drivers would be required to pass these disabled vehicles in the same manner as they are required to pass emergency service areas,” Iovino wrote in a memo to legislators.

She adds that the legislation would put violations and penalties for failing to safely pass disabled vehicles on par with those associated with failing to safely pass vehicles covered in statute.

SB1345 is in the Senate Transportation Committee. LL

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania is available.

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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.