Pennsylvania Drunk Driving Statistics

November 1, 2019

Pennsylvania—land of rolling green hills, beautiful countryside, pristine farmland, rich national history, and historically strict DUI laws in the United States. As of 2019, these laws just got increasingly stringent.

With alcohol-related fatalities accounting for more than 30 percent of all traffic fatalities in Pennsylvania, the state is getting even more serious about impaired driving. Whether a resident, a visitor, or just passing through—here’s what you need to know about Pennsylvania drunk driving statistics, laws, and penalties. 

Know The DUI Statistics

In 2017, Pennsylvania reported a staggering 10,346 alcohol-related driving accidents. Of those, drunk driving statistics in Pennsylvania show that alcohol was involved in 8% of all accidents and 26% of fatal accidents. 

By the numbers:

  • Roughly 293 people lost their lives or killed someone else because of drinking and driving
  • Roughly 18% of the driver fatalities in the 16-20 age group were caused by drunk driving
  • Roughly 88% of the alcohol-related occupant fatalities were in the motor vehicle driven by the drinking driver
  • Roughly 76% were the drunk driver themselves

Know The Criteria For Impairment

Before we look into the laws specifically, here’s what you need to know about being considered Impaired in the state of Pennsylvania according to their drunk driving laws.

You are legally drunk when:

  • you are over the age 21 and your blood alcohol level is .08% or more
  • you are a commercial-vehicle driver and your blood alcohol level is .04% or more
  • you are a school bus driver and your blood alcohol level is .02% or more.
  • you are under the age of 21 and your blood alcohol level is .02% or more.

Know The Laws

According to Senate Bill 961, the following DUI reforms are currently in place that you should be aware of.

  • Increased penalties for driving with a revoked or suspended license

 

    • The first DUI conviction remains unchanged as a summary offense involving a $500 fine and 60 to 90 days in jail. 
    • The second DUI conviction is also still a summary offense, but is punishable by a $1,000 fine and a minimum of 90 days in jail
    • The third DUI conviction offense becomes a misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum sentence of six months in jail and a fine of $2,500.

  • Mandatory minimum sentence for vehicular homicide

 

    • If convicted of vehicular homicide, the judge will add five years to your sentence if you have previous DUI offenses on your record.
    • If two or more prior DUI convictions are on your record, the minimum sentence is raised to seven years per death. Penalties for repeat DUI-offenders who commit aggravated assault with their vehicles are incrementally increased.

  • Repeat DUIs become felonies

 

    • Second or third DUI convictions can also be charged as felonies if the previous offenses involved aggravating factors such as a high blood-alcohol concentrations, an injury or death, or the presence of a minor in the motor vehicle.
    • A fourth DUI in a 10-year period will now be treated as a felony of the 3rd degree, punishable by 3-1/2 to 7 years in prison and a fine of $15,000. 

Along with these increased DUI penalties, Bill 961 increases virtually every punishment for intoxicated driving: the entirety of which can be studied here.

Additionally, Pennsylvania’s zero-tolerance law means that if you are under 21, you can still be arrested and charged with a DUI if you register a blood alcohol concentration of .02%. Severe penalties include a 12-to 18-month license suspension, 48 hours to 6 months in jail, and fines from $500 to $5,000.

Know The Penalties

Basic penalties for a DUI in Pennsylvania are the following:

  • First Offense (.08% to .16% blood alcohol content or higher):
    • Jail—6 months of probation to 6 months 
    • License Suspension—zero to 12 months
    • Fines—$300 to $5000
    • Interlock Ignition Device—one year
  • Second Offense (.08% to .16% blood alcohol content or higher):
  • Third Offense (.08% to .16% blood alcohol content or higher):
  • Jail—90 days to 5 years
  • License Suspension—12 to 18 months
  • Fines—minimum $1500 to $10,000
  • Interlock Ignition Device—one year

Although you may fall anywhere on the spectrum of financial penance, license suspension, and jail time—be aware that in 2017 the Pennsylvania Senate approved the DUI Bill HB 1357 regarding all first-time DUI offenders. This bill states that: 

“Any convicted first-time DUI offender who has a blood alcohol concentration of .10 or higher will—in addition to upholding the normally imposed fines, fees, and penalties—be required to immediately install a car breathalyzer in their vehicle if they wish to drive.” 

Besides the possible loss of reputation, loss of finances, loss of employment, and—worst of all—loss of life, be aware that a DUI arrest will stay on your record for 10 years in Pennsylvania. 

That is a heavy price to pay for the quick fix of convenience or poor judgment.

Conclusion

In this age of bountiful ride-share programs, please be urged to not be “penny wise and pound foolish.”  That cab, Uber, or Lyft fare will be the smartest and safest money you’ve ever spent.

Sources:

Pennsylvania General Assembly. Bill Information. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billinfo/billinfo.cfm?syear=2017&sInd=0&body=S&type=B&bn=961

Penndot. Impaired Driving. https://www.penndot.gov/TravelInPA/Safety/TrafficSafetyAndDriverTopics/Pages/Impaired-Driving.aspx

Team DUI. Alcohol-Related Crashes. https://padui.org/crash-facts/

Low Cost Interlock. What is an Ignition Interlock Device? https://www.lowcostinterlock.com/ignition-interlock-information/what-is-an-ignition-interlock-device/

DUI Driving Laws. Pennsylvania Drunk and Drugged Driving Laws and Penalties. https://dui.drivinglaws.org/pa-dui.php

Alcohol.org. Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Calculator https://www.alcohol.org/bac-calculator/

AAA DUI Justice Link. Standardized Field Sobriety Test. https://duijusticelink.aaa.com/issues/detection/standard-field-sobriety-test-sfst-and-admissibility/

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