PennDOT now holding Driver Improvement School course

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) has announced that select drivers facing a suspension due to accumulation of points on their driving records or for a conviction of excessive speeding now have a chance at redemption through successfully completing the newly-instituted Driver Improvement School (DIS) offered by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

“This new training program offers people whose driving privileges are in jeopardy a chance to avoid losing their license,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “For many, losing the ability to legally operate a motor vehicle means not just a loss of mobility, but a loss of income and independence as well.”

As drivers are convicted of certain moving violations, points are assigned to their driving record. Once a driver’s record has been reduced below six points and for the second time, shows as many as six points or has a conviction for excessive speeding, that driver is required to attend a departmental hearing. 

At the departmental hearing, a driver meets with a Driver Safety Examiner (DSE) to review their driving record and discuss the driving habits that resulted in the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, a determination will be made whether serving a 15-day suspension or attending PennDOT’s DIS would be most beneficial for the driver to assist in making better decisions while behind the wheel.

An individual who attends and successfully completes the DIS due to their record showing for the second time as many as six points, will have two points removed from their record and avoid a 15-day suspension. An individual who attends and successfully completes the DIS due to a conviction on excessive speeding will avoid having to serve a 15-day suspension. If an individual does not successfully complete the course or fails to attend, they will be required to serve a 60-day driver’s license suspension.

The DIS curriculum focuses on safety and addresses poor driver behaviors and judgment exhibited in “high risk” drivers. This six-hour course focuses on educating and assisting problematic drivers to identify why they engage in risky driving behavior and how to utilize strategies for behavior modification to assist in improving their driving habits to prevent future violations and crashes.

For more information, visit the Driver Improvement School page on the Driver and Vehicle Services website.

PennDOT Inviting Students to Paint a Plow

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is inviting high school students in the northeast region to participate in the annual Paint the Plow art outreach.

The program challenges youth to take a predetermined theme and incorporate it into an original mural that they paint on one of PennDOT’s snow plow blades to promote winter driving safety and foster appreciation for school art programs and student creativity. The 2022 theme, “Put Down the Device in Snow and Ice,” was chosen to draw attention to the need for motorists to give themselves ample time for travel during wintry weather in order to arrive safely to their destination. 

Paint the Plow was piloted in Cambria County in 2015 and later expanded to several surrounding counties and across the state. In the northeast region last year, students in Lackawanna, Luzerne, Pike, Susquehanna, Wayne and Wyoming counties participated. 

Students in public and private schools are eligible to participate, though school officials must make the arrangements. Plow delivery and pick up dates vary by county. The program categories may be modified based on participation numbers.

Additional information on the program, including the guidelines for participation, can be found online at www.penndot.pa.gov or may be obtained by Jessica Ruddy at jeruddy@Pa.gov or 570.963.4044.

PennDOT cannot provide financial support for supplies or travel expenses connected with this program but does make every effort to publicize the contributions of the schools and the students. This will include, but is not limited to, social media postings, postings on the PennDOT website, media press releases and public displays at a local PennDOT facility. 

PennDOT: Drive Responsibly This Labor Day Weekend

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP), and the Pennsylvania DUI Association gathered recently with local police agencies and victim’s advocates in the DUI Victims’ Memorial Garden to urge motorists to celebrate responsibly ahead of the Labor Day holiday.

“Crashes involving impaired drivers are entirely preventable,” said PennDOT Secretary Yassmin Gramian. “We are urging motorists to ensure their safety and the safety of others on our roadways by designating a sober driver this Labor Day weekend and every time they drink.”

The event featured victim advocate Kelli Donlen, whose nephew Zachary Gonzalez is memorialized in the DUI Victims’ Memorial Garden. The garden, which was dedicated in October 2003 and is located in front of the Pennsylvania DUI Association’s headquarters in Harrisburg, honors and remembers Pennsylvanians who have been killed in impaired driving crashes. Currently, more than 2,200 people are memorialized in the garden.

According to PennDOT data, in 2020 there were 2,698 crashes resulting in 39 fatalities statewide over the holiday week beginning Friday, Sept.  4 at 6 p.m. and running through Sunday, Sept.13. Of those numbers, 231 crashes resulting in 12 fatalities were alcohol-related and 104 crashes resulting in three fatalities were drug-related.

Impaired driving enforcement goes beyond checking for alcohol impairment. Law enforcement also work to identify motorists impaired by illegal drugs and prescription medication or some combination of these. Pennsylvania has approximately 225 Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) or specially trained officers who look for impaired drivers and assist in DUI investigations when drug-impaired driving is suspected.

“We honor and remember the lives lost because someone chooses to drive impaired,” said PA DUI Association Executive Director C. Stephen Erni. “Labor Day weekend and every remaining day of the year, the message is clear: Do not drive impaired. Our collective goal is to end the suffering caused by an individual’s choice to drive impaired.”

Over this holiday period, the Pennsylvania State Police and local municipal agencies will conduct impaired driving enforcement details as part of a national impaired driving enforcement and education initiative running through Sept. 6. This effort is funded through PennDOT’s statewide annual distribution of more than $4.7 million from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for impaired driving enforcement.

“Travelers are reminded this holiday weekend to slow down, buckle up, and don’t drive impaired or distracted,” said Captain Robert Wagner, assistant director of the Bureau of Patrol with the Pennsylvania State Police. “Troopers are trained to look for impaired driving behaviors and consistent with our highway safety mission have a zero-tolerance approach toward driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.”

PennDOT encourages motorists to always plan ahead by either designating a sober driver or arranging for alternate transportation. The public can join the conversation on social media by using #BeSafePA and #DriveSober.