Pennsylvania House votes to revise uninsured motorist penalties

November 10, 2020

Keith Goble

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An effort halfway through the Pennsylvania General Assembly 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. Violators face 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 for being convicted of driving without insurance. In order to take advantage of the option, owners must provide proof of current insurance.

Change needed

House lawmakers voted 201-1 to move forward a bill to set a civil penalty instead of a license suspension for driving without insurance. It now moves to the Senate.

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.

He added that the change would ensure that accidental lapses in vehicle insurance “do not have to hinder a person’s ability to travel and earn a living.”

Additionally, a fiscal note attached to the bill states that making available the payment option would generate about $580,000 annually. The funds would be deposited into the state’s Public Transportation Trust Fund.

Looking out for truck drivers

Kortz has told legislators he brought up the 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.

“It would be especially helpful to commercial drivers in instances where they may face a suspension, even if the lapse in insurance is with their personal vehicle, not with a vehicle they operate as part of their employment,” Kortz said in prepared remarks.

He recently told members of the House Transportation Committee about a truck driver in his district who was affected by the rule.

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

The bill awaits consideration 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.