Pennsylvania bill would revise ‘Steer Clear’ law
September 8, 2020
A Pennsylvania Senate bill is intended to strengthen the state’s existing “Steer Clear” law.
In an effort to improve safety on the state’s roadways, Republican Sens. Doug Mastriano of Adams County and Kim Ward of Hempfield are pursuing revisions to the law for the second time in four years.
They cite an increased number of incidents.
According to the Pennsylvania State Police, more than 7,000 citations were issued under the Steer Clear law during the most recent two-year period. An additional 3,200 warnings were issued during the same time frame.
Among the changes being sought is rebranding the law as a “Move Over” law. Other changes include setting a new point system and increasing fine amounts.
2001 Steer Clear law
Since 2001, all drivers in the state are required 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, they must reduce their speed.
Offenders can face fines up to $250.
Due to concerns about a rising numbers of violations to the law, the Legislature revisited the Steer Clear law in 2017.
At the time, statistics from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation showed violations of the law increased by more than 85% from 2013 to 2015.
Among the changes approved to the rule was 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.
More revisions pursued
One bill, SB1281, in the Senate Transportation Committee 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 slow to at least 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.
Existing law only requires a driver to pass the affected area at a “careful and prudent reduced speed.”
A new point system would result in two points for failure to merge into the lane not adjacent to the 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.
Bill sponsors say the steeper fines and point assessment should act as a deterrent against repeat offenders.
They add that the proposed revisions would mirror the penalties associated with construction zone violations.
“While the General Assembly took steps to increase penalties via Act 20 of 2017, more action is necessary to deter roadway mishaps,” Mastriano said in prepared remarks.