Understanding the legal system is no mean feat, and every state has its share of outdated and unusual laws that defy explanation. Here, we discuss some of Pennsylvania’s unusual, weird, and downright strange laws. While some laws are amusing and clearly meant for another time, others are rooted in reasonable safety concerns.
If another driver’s illegal actions injured you, even if the law seems odd, do not hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer. A Pennsylvania injury attorney will know all of the unusual and unique laws governing Pennsylvania’s highways and byways and can leverage that knowledge to help you seek the compensation you deserve.
Weird Traffic Laws in Pennsylvania
As one of the oldest states in the U.S., some of the state’s laws date back to the 1700s. While many Pennsylvania laws readily apply to modern times, several traffic-related laws didn’t age well as transportation evolved. Below are some of Pennsylvania’s strangest traffic laws.
Do Not Spook the Horses
Pennsylvania’s roads were established for horseback riding and carriages long before automobiles came along in the late 1800s. It is no surprise that horses found these alien mechanisms particularly unsettling, with their loud noises, shiny surfaces, and bad smells. There were so many mishaps involving spooked horses that Pennsylvanians attempted to pass several laws to limit unwanted interactions between horses and cars.
According to the Concord Township Historical Society, one drafted law suggested that motor vehicle operators who sighted a horse-drawn vehicle on the road should stop, pull off the road, and cover the vehicle with a canvas, blanket, or other material to blend with the surrounding area.
Another draft suggested that the vehicle be disassembled entirely and hidden in the bushes until the horses passed. Yet another suggested that someone walk in ahead of the automobile with red flags in either hand. While these suggestions did not become law, other laws concerning horse safety did.
Per the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, motor vehicle operators on the road with horseback riders or horse-drawn buggies must avoid driving too closely, crowding, flashing lights, or sounding their horns. If you approach a horse-drawn vehicle, slow down to 5 to 10 miles per hour and watch for passing vehicles. When passing a buggy or horseback rider yourself, drive slowly and leave ample space between your vehicle and the horses.
In addition, do not cut off the horses too closely when you return to the lane, as this can spook the horses and cause dangerous accidents.
According to Pennsylvania Statutes Title 75 Pa.C.S.A. Vehicles § 3103, individuals riding on horses or operating horse-drawn vehicles have all the rights of a motor vehicle driver, except on limited-access roadways.
In general, take extra care when driving at night or in inclement weather. Always watch for horses, buggies, farm equipment, bicyclists, and pedestrians, and give them plenty of room.
Stop Every Mile on Dark Country Roads and Launch a Flare
Another odd Pennsylvania law that may never have been codified is shooting flares every mile on a country road at night. According to this proposed law, drivers operating motor vehicles on country roads after dark must stop every mile and fire a flare into the air to warn livestock away from the road. They must then wait ten minutes before moving to the next mile.
While this law may sound especially strange, the concern for livestock was valid. Historically, the introduction of automobiles onto rural roads created significant conflicts between livestock owners and motor vehicle operators. Livestock were and still are expensive to maintain and make up a significant portion of a farmer’s wealth.
Before widespread motor vehicle use, cattle, sheep, and even geese were left to roam relatively freely and often herded between pastures and barns along rural thoroughfares. A quick-moving vehicle could easily harm or kill livestock and people on winding Pennsylvania roads.
In today’s vehicle-dependent society, the laws about both livestock and motor vehicles have evolved to meet current needs. Speed limits, due care laws, headlight requirements, and other regulations help to safeguard livestock and pedestrians on nighttime roads. By the same token, agricultural laws provide guidelines for livestock transport and containment to reduce the potential for dangerous collisions.
You Cannot Buy a Car on a Sunday
This law is a relic of Pennsylvania’s 1779 Blue Laws, also known as Sunday trading laws. Many states across the U.S. established these laws to enshrine Sunday as a day of rest. These laws differed by state and prohibited everything from playing baseball and dancing to selling cars. You can still see other effects of the Blue Laws today in many aspects of daily life. Most Post Offices and government offices close on Sundays, as do many private businesses.
While you can still purchase a vehicle from a private owner on Sunday, you must transfer the title in the presence of a notary, and most notaries are in government offices that are also closed on Sunday. Fortunately, the internet has simplified the process for buyers who need a car sooner rather than later. You can still peruse the vehicles on your local dealership’s website and head over to their lot first thing on Monday.
Modern Driving Laws Unique to Pennsylvania
While the above laws may be a little unusual, Pennsylvania has its share of unique driving laws that drivers from elsewhere may not know. They may surprise even native Pennsylvanians. These laws help protect drivers, pedestrians, and other people out on the roads in Pennsylvania’s changeable weather.
Slow and Steer Clear of Disabled Vehicles and Accidents
Pennsylvania requires that drivers reduce their speed to 20 mph when approaching traffic stops, accident scenes, emergency vehicles, and disabled vehicles on or near the roadway. By forcing drivers to slow down and pay attention, these laws help to reduce the potential for additional accidents, injuries, and casualties at an accident scene and protect police and construction workers directing traffic.
Drivers must also change lanes or move as far away from disabled vehicles as possible to avoid hitting the vehicle or individuals who may be working nearby. Contact a Pennsylvania injury attorney to discuss your legal rights if you are injured in an accident because another driver did not obey traffic laws to slow and steer clear.
Clear Snow From Your Vehicle
Snow and ice can make driving on Pennsylvania roads treacherous throughout the winter and into spring. While you may be used to contending with slippery asphalt and black ice, you may be surprised to find that one of the major dangers of winter weather is flying snow and ice above the ground.
Drivers who park their cars and trucks outside may scrape the ice off their windows, but leave ice on the roof, hood, and bumpers. This ice, dislodged by high-speed travel, can fly off the car and hit vehicles, bicyclists, pedestrians, and property nearby. At such speeds, ice and snow can cause significant damage and injury.
To prevent injuries due to flying snow and ice, Pennsylvania law requires that drivers remove all snow and ice from their vehicle before driving. This law includes all vehicles, from small passenger cars to commercial tractor-trailers. If another driver’s failure to remove snow and ice from their vehicle injured you or a loved one, reach out to an attorney to discuss whether you can file a claim against the negligent driver.
Keep Your Running Lights on in Dark or Inclement Weather
Although most people understand that they must use headlights at night, many are unaware that they must also turn on their headlights in inclement weather. The rule of thumb is if you have to turn on your windshield wipers due to fog, mist, rain, snow, or other precipitation, you need to turn on your vehicle’s headlights. Running lights help to keep drivers aware of one another on dark, difficult-to-see roadways during dangerous driving conditions. They also allow drivers to see pedestrians, bikers, animals, and obstacles in the road to prevent accidents.
If a driver who did not have their running lights on during inclement weather injured you in an accident, contact a Pennsylvania car accident attorney to determine whether you can pursue a claim.
Odd Local Laws in Pennsylvania Towns and Cities
In keeping with Pennsylvania’s tradition of weird laws, many localities within the state have their own weird laws, codes, and statutes. Below are just a few of the more unusual local laws.
No Donkeys on the Trolley!
In 1859, Pittsburgh established its first trolley system, a horse-drawn trolley that later evolved into an electric cable line and then a double-decker passenger rail. Eventually, the downtown light rail system and bus lines replaced the trolley system. Many old trolley lines were paved over and are now used exclusively for vehicle traffic.
While the light rail has largely replaced Pittsburgh’s trolleys, at least one remnant of that time remains. According to a still-existing Pittsburgh law, you may not bring your donkey or mule onto the trolley. While this may seem like common sense, it is interesting to wonder what happened on the Pittsburgh trolley to make this law necessary.
Do Not Tie Your Horse to the Parking Meter
While this may seem like an outdated law, horseback riding and livestock are common enough in Tarentum, PA, to require this regulation. Whether or not you have paid the meter for a parking space, you are not permitted to hitch your horse to the meter.
Fortunately, several horse boarding organizations in and around town allow you to pay to safely (and legally) house your equine friends. Keep in mind that motorists are required to give you a wide berth when traveling on the same roads. If a driver’s failure to drive carefully, slow down, or provide ample space while passing injured you, speak with an injury attorney about seeking compensation for your injuries.
It Counts as Foot Traffic
When it comes to unique and oddly specific Pennsylvania laws, Ridley Park takes the cake. According to locals, you are not allowed to walk backward while eating peanuts in front of local venue Barnstormer’s Auditorium during a performance.
While peanuts may or may not be a particular risk, pedestrians do have special protection under the law, especially in urban areas with high foot traffic and potentially inattentive drivers. If negligent or reckless driving injured you as a pedestrian, reach out to an attorney to determine whether you can seek compensation.
When You Should Contact a Personal Injury Firm?
While some of these laws may seem spurious or just silly, others exist to protect the public from untimely accidents, injury, and even death. It is always in your best interest to follow the law, even if it seems strange.
If someone else’s failure to follow any traffic laws injured you, reach out to a personal injury attorney. An attorney will help you navigate the complexities of Pennsylvania law and local statutes, so you can determine the best way forward.
Personal injury firms are passionate about defending the rights of their clients’ rights and can aggressively pursue your case, up to and including going to trial. An attorney understands that every case is different, which is why they can tailor each case to your particular needs.
If another person’s negligent or malicious actions injured you or a loved one, contact a personal injury firm today for a free consultation. The right compassionate injury lawyer can analyze your case and help you determine the next steps for your case.