In Pennsylvania in 2017, there were a total of 128,188 traffic accidents. These crashes resulted in more than 80,000 injuries and 1,137 fatalities statewide. Despite the increased awareness and efforts of law enforcement, motorists continue to drive recklessly. Examples may include distracted driving, operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and extreme acts of aggressive driving.
Reckless Driving (§3736)
Pennsylvania law defines reckless driving as when a driver operates a vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety” of other people or property. These acts are considered a summary offense that carries a fine of $200. Summary offenses are less serious than misdemeanors in Pennsylvania. A maximum jail term of 90 days and a fine of $300 may be imposed.
Pennsylvania has trailed many other states in the implementation of laws that prohibit distracted driving and that impose significant penalties. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives has a Transportation Committee that is actively working to address these concerns. Some of the measures that are pending include prohibiting drivers under 18 from using a hand-held device in any manner while driving. They are also seeking to increase existing penalties for text messaging from $50 to $200.
A recent study was posted that revealed driver behavior nationwide as follows:
- 37% of those between 18 and 34 feel pressure to respond to work-related calls and messages while driving
- Parents with young children are among those most likely to be driving while distracted
- More than 30% of females said they have taken a photo using a handheld device while driving
Aggravated Assault by Vehicle (§3732)
When acts such as reckless driving are committed with gross negligence that results in serious bodily harm to others, charges of aggravated vehicular assault may apply. This is a third-degree felony offense that is punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Gross negligence involves actions that were intentional and extend beyond ordinary indifference or acts of recklessness.
In addition to any other penalties, the court may order imprisonment for two-years. This applies if the driver was operating in a work zone (construction zone), without having a valid operator's license, or was approaching an emergency vehicle.
Homicide by Vehicle (§3732)
When a motorist's reckless driving is committed with gross negligence that results in a fatality, charges of vehicular homicide may apply. This is also a third-degree felony offense. In addition to any other penalties, the offender may be ordered to complete a sentence of five years in prison. This applies if the driver was operating in a work zone (construction zone), without having a valid operator's license, or was approaching an emergency vehicle.
Pennsylvania Attorney for Defending Allegations of Serious Traffic Violations
Drivers who are accused of operating a vehicle in a recklessly or carelessly manner can face significant penalties, particularly when injuries are incurred. Joseph D. Lento is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer that has been representing clients in these and other similar cases for many years. For a complimentary case consultation, contact the office at (888) 535-3686.