Driving to Pennsylvania: Tips, Tricks, and Laws

Be confident in your trip to Pennsylvania by planning your route, watching for traffic, and keeping the state road laws in mind.
Written by Zachary Morgan
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
background
Pennsylvania’s
extensive toll system facilitates efficient road travel across the state, but a number of factors can still make driving difficult for the uninitiated.
With its picturesque forests and scenic mountain ranges, Pennsylvania can be a beautiful state to drive through. At the same time, though, crowded roads and the presence of major cities like
Pittsburgh
and
Philadelphia
can make travel difficult.
We thought we’d make your trip to the Quaker State a bit easier by putting this guide together. We’ll tell you about the roads, traffic, and laws to keep in mind so you have the best, safest, and most fun trip possible.
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The best routes for driving to Pennsylvania

It doesn’t matter if you’re coming from up north or down south, we can help you put a fantastic route together. Here are some interesting road trips that you could take to Pennsylvania:
  • Colonial Williamsburg—Lancaster (5 hours): Take a trip through time with this history-focused voyage through two of the original thirteen colonies. Check out the shops and interact with some costumed re-enactors in historic
    Williamsburg
    before taking a day trip to Busch Gardens. Then, make your way to the famous Pennsylvania Amish Country where you can meet the locals and maybe churn some butter. Make sure you stop at an Amish market for a good lunch at some point.
  • Boston—Philadelphia (6 hours): Another fun history trip! Journey back to the American Revolution by visiting two eminent cities from that era. From the
    Old State House
    in Boston to the
    Liberty Bell
    in Philly, this trip is a great opportunity to go back in time and learn all about the founding of the United States.
  • Ghost Town Trail (11.5 hours): Enough history, it’s time for something completely different! Supernatural hijinks abound on this eerie voyage across abandoned locales and creepy ghost towns all across the state of Pennsylvania. It’s a unique way to see a large part of this beautiful state—but you might want to bring a friend with you just in case! Always make sure you stay on public property and follow local guidelines during your trip.

How good are Pennsylvania’s roads?

Unfortunately, drivers in Pennsylvania have to contend with some of the poorest roads in the country. A recent study ranked the roadways in Pennsylvania as the 15th worst in the country. Potholes, cracks, bumps, rough surfaces, and general wear-and-tear are all common throughout the state and can get particularly bad in the cities.
One common feature across many of the states with poorly-rated roads is that they often experience more overt wintry conditions than other states. Naturally, this negatively affects the structural integrity of the roadways thanks to salting, scraping, and freeze-thaw cycles.

Does Pennsylvania have toll roads?

Yes, it surely does. The Pennsylvania Turnpike is one of the most iconic highways on the East Coast, running east-west across the state for 360 miles. It connects Pittsburgh in the west to Philadelphia in the east, with an average speed limit of 70 mph along the way.
There's one thing to be aware of before getting on the PA Turnpike: the cost. Make sure you have your wallet with you because the toll fees can add up quickly. For example, the trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia will cost you $65.50 for a drive that doesn’t quite last six hours.
You can make the PA Turnpike a bit cheaper and easier for yourself by getting an
E-Z Pass
. Not only can you breeze through the toll plazas without having to come to a full stop, but you can save money, too. That same trip from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia only costs $32.50 with E-Z Pass!

How bad is Pennsylvania traffic?

It depends. You probably won’t hit much traffic in Amish Country or on the state’s rural backroads, but you will likely have some problems once you get to a major city.
Philadelphia traffic
, in particular, is infamous for congestion. It was recently found to be the 10th-worst city for traffic in the US, costing drivers an average of 75 hours a year in 2021 alone.
Pittsburgh traffic
, by comparison, was ranked 25th worst and costs drivers around 18 hours annually.
When traveling through a city, make sure you avoid rush hour at all costs. The best way to do this is by traveling before 6am or after 7pm to avoid most of the crowd going to and from work.
Key Takeaway The roads in Pennsylvania are bad and the cities are crowded, so be prepared. Stay on the Turnpike as long as you can.
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What are Pennsylvania’s speeding laws?

The speeding laws in Pennsylvania are fairly straightforward—if you drive faster than the posted speed limit, you risk being pulled over and given a ticket. The general laws for speed limits regulate how fast drivers can go in certain areas:
  • 25 miles per hour in a residential district
  • 35 miles per hour in an urban district
  • 65 or 70 miles per hour on freeways where 65 or 70 mph limit signs are posted
  • 55 miles per hour in any other locations
An additional clause mandates that drivers must drive at speeds reasonable and prudent to the current conditions (i.e. rain, snow, etc.) and not too fast to allow them to stop properly.
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Fines for speeding in Pennsylvania

If you are given a speeding ticket in Pennsylvania, the fine will be based on exactly how much faster than the speed limit you were traveling. The fines are as follows:
  • $42.50 for the violation of a maximum speed limit of 65 miles per hour
  • $35 for the violation of any other speed limit
  • An additional $2 will be added for every five miles per hour over the speed limit
Excessive speeding—more than 31 mph over the posted limit—can result in a 15-day license suspension, among other penalties.

What are Maryland’s alcohol laws?

In terms of alcohol laws, Pennsylvania breaks driving under the influence (DUI) into three separate categories based on blood-alcohol content (BAC):
  • General Impairment - 0.08% - 0.99%
  • High BAC - 0.10% - 0.159%
  • Highest BAC - 0.16% and higher
Naturally, the penalties for a DUI increase between levels of severity and number of offenses. In addition, drivers under 21 can be charged with DUI for a BAC of only 0.02%, while the national BAC limit for commercial drivers is 0.04%. You can check
here
for a more detailed breakdown of Pennsylvania’s DUI penalties.
Pennsylvania’s open container laws are also very strict. State law clearly mandates that it is completely illegal for there to be an open container of alcohol in the vehicle’s passenger compartment. Naturally, the driver cannot drink, but even passengers are forbidden from consuming alcohol anywhere on Pennsylvania’s roadways.
A
DUI
is a serious infraction with significant repercussions. Fines, loss of license, and even jail time are possible with a DUI conviction. Sobriety is your best bet for staying sober and out of trouble on your trip across Pennsylvania.
Check
here
for an alcohol impairment chart sponsored by the Pennsylvania DOT.

Can you use headphones while driving in Pennsylvania?

Per
Section 3314
of the Pennsylvania Law Code, it is illegal to wear headphones over both ears while operating a motor vehicle. However, you are allowed to wear an earbud or headset in one ear, so make sure to pack your AirPods or wireless Bluetooth earbuds if you want to finish that podcast or audiobook.

How to find affordable car insurance in Pennsylvania

Whether you’re headed to Pittsburgh for a Steelers game or just going to Philly to visit family, you’re going to need a good
car insurance
policy at a fair price. That’s where Jerry comes in.
Jerry
is the easiest way to compare and shop for quotes online. Just enter your information into the Jerry app and you’ll get a personalized list of quotes from top insurance providers in under a minute. If you see a policy you like, Jerry can even help you cancel your old one! 
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Philadelphia is certainly the worst, thanks to traffic, traffic, and more traffic. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, might not be the best per se, but it's certainly leaps and bounds ahead of Philadelphia as a pleasant, efficient city to drive in.
You can cross Pennsylvania from east-west in around 5-6 hours. The same trip from north-south would take around 4 hours.
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