Pennsylvania bill would aid certain suspended motorists

January 20, 2020

Keith Goble


One Pennsylvania bill to forgive some traffic violators for nonhighway safety-related reasons has taken a step forward at the statehouse.

The House Transportation Committee voted unanimously to advance a bill to establish a restoration program to give people who have lost their driving privileges due to failure to pay fines, fees or penalties the opportunity to have their license reinstated once making payment of those delinquent fines, fees or penalties.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation estimates there are more than 1 million suspended driver’s licenses in the state.

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, said the state needs to provide an incentive for people to “get back into the system.”

“It becomes all too easy to fall into a vicious cycle of suspensions, fines and penalties that eventually add up to a point where an individual can never get out from under and creates less incentive to rectify the situation,” Wheatley said in previous remarks.

The program would be in place for one year for individuals who would still be required to serve the suspension for the underlying offense, but would provide forgiveness for all subsequent suspensions for driving while suspended and provide the opportunity for a payment plan or community service to satisfy all financial penalties.

Speaking at the committee hearing, Wheatley added that there also is an economic reason to pass his bill. Specifically, Pennsylvania could recoup $120 million in fines and fees that should be going to the state’s general fund.

Effort to forgive suspended motorists not without criticism

Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, shared his concern about allowing certain suspended motorists to get a “free pass” for failure to fulfill their obligations, while people who paid to relieve their suspensions will continue to be out the money they paid.

“Maybe they shouldn’t have paid. Now the Legislature is going to come by and sweep that away,” Stephens said.

The bill, HB80, awaits further consideration on the House floor.

Stephens expressed support for revising the bill on the chamber floor to limit license restoration to apply to “bread and butter” driving privileges. Essentially, reinstating driving privileges solely to allow affected people to drive back and forth to work.

More Land Line coverage of news from Pennsylvania is available.