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– FAQ: Traffic Laws

Is seatbelt use required in Pennsylvania?
Yes. Section 4581 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code mandates seat belt use for anyone between the ages of 8 and 18 – this is a primary offense. In addition, persons aged 18 years and older seated in the a front seat are required to wear seat belts and can be convicted of a summary offense if also convicted of another offense at the same time.

What do I do if I am faced with both a red light and a yield sign?
If you approach an intersection controlled by both a traffic light and a yield sign, your required actions depend on which lane you are in. Examples of such intersections include East Winding Hill Road and Gettysburg Pike; or East Winding Hill Road and Mt. Allen Drive. Traffic going straight or turning left must wait for the appropriate green indicator for their lane. Traffic turning right in a designated right-turn lane controlled by a Yield sign need not be concerned with the traffic light. The only requirement in these right-turn lanes controlled by a Yield sign is to yield to traffic in the intersection/roadway.

What is required in emergency response areas?
When approaching or passing an emergency response area (any emergency vehicle with flashing lights) to:

  1. Pass in a lane not adjacent to that of the emergency response area if possible; or
  2. If passing in a nonadjacent lane is impossible, illegal or unsafe, pass the emergency response area at a careful and prudent reduced speed reasonable for safely passing the emergency response area.

The term emergency response area includes the area in which a Police Officer is conducting a traffic stop or systematic check of vehicles as long as the emergency vehicle is making use of visual signals meeting the requirements of 75 Pa. C. S. § 4571-4573.

When am I required to use headlights?
Effective January 29, 2007, drivers are now required to use their headlights anytime their windshield wipers are in operation. Specifically, Section 4302(a)(3) of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code states that headlights are required: “Any time when the vehicle’s windshield wipers are in continuous or intermittent use due to precipitation or atmospheric moisture, including rain, snow, sleet or mist.” In addition to the above change, headlights are required between sunset and sunrise and anytime an operator cannot discern a person or vehicle upon a highway from a distance of 1000 feet due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions (i.e. rain, snow, fog, sleet, smoke, etc.). You should also be aware that daytime running lamps are not considered headlights. If your headlights are on, then the other vehicle lighting will be on too (i.e. taillights and other marker lights as required).

Can I drive in the left lane on a limited access highway for an unlimited amount of time?
No. The Pennsylvania Vehicle Code states “Vehicles shall be driven in the lane nearest the right-hand edge of the roadway, except when overtaking (passing) another vehicle, or for a distance of up to two miles in preparation for a left turn, or as directed by official traffic control devices, police officers or appropriately attired persons authorized to divert, control or regulate traffic.”

When I enter a limited-access highway from an on-ramp, is traffic required to yield and allow me to enter?
No. On limited-access highways, the traffic on the limited-access highway shall have the right-of-way.

How far behind the vehicle in front of me should I be when driving?
The Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual recommends the “Four-Second-Rule” as a helpful guide. To follow the “Four-Second-Rule” watch the rear bumper of the vehicle ahead. When the bumper passes a shadow or road marking, start counting the seconds you take to reach the same spot on the road. If you pass the same spot in less than four seconds, you are following too closely.

When do I need to use a child safety seat?
State law requires that children under the age of four (4) must be buckled into a federally-approved safety seat no matter where they ride in a motor vehicle – front or back seat. Additionally, any person that transports a child four (4) years of age or older, but under eight (8) years of age, anywhere in the motor vehicle shall secure the child with the seat belt and in an appropriately fitting child booster seat.

Why should I stop at the white stop line at a traffic signal?
Most traffic signals operate in part by monitoring traffic position through sensors embedded in the pavement at the intersection. The sensors are placed in conjunction with the white stop lines. Stopping too far behind or too far in front of the white line may result in the sensor not detecting your vehicle. This in turn may result in failing to receive a green signal. The lines also regulate the stopped position of waiting vehicles to provide the necessary turning area required for vehicles turning left through the intersection.

Can passengers ride in the bed of my pickup truck?
Persons 18 years of age and older may ride in the bed if the vehicle is driven at a speed of no more than 35 miles per hour. No child less than 18 years of age may ride in the bed at any speed. Certain exemptions exist for farm operations, hunting and parades.

If I am involved in an auto accident, when must I report it to the police?
If the accident involves death or injury to any person or damage to any vehicle to the extent that it requires towing. If any of these circumstances are present, the driver must immediately notify the police.