States Legislate Snow and Ice Removal from Cars – Is New York Next?

by The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP
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Most motorists are aware of the many safety hazards that winter driving presents. The roads are icy, which can lead to skidding and an inability to effectively apply the brakes. Visibility is lowered due to the snow, fog, and winds. And the cold temperatures can adversely affect the car’s engine.  But there is one danger that has only recently garnered the attention it deserves. Snow or ice that accumulates on the roof, hood, and windows of a vehicle has the potential to cause severe damage to nearby cars and injury to nearby motorists or pedestrians. Sadly there have even been cases of lives being lost due to flying chunks of snow or ice.

ABC News recently reported that Connecticut introduced a new law that requires motorists to clear off all snow and ice from their cars before driving. The law went into effect this year on the first of January. Drivers can be pulled over for driving with snow or ice on their cars and ticketed anywhere between $75-$120.

Not all drivers are pleased with the new laws. In particular, members of the trucking industry have complained of the logistical challenge of clearing snow or ice off the roof of a tractor-trailer. The passage of the law was delayed three years in order to give the public time to learn of its existence, and also to give the trucking industry time to devise a system for clearing the roofs of trucks. Unfortunately, a widely effective solution has yet to be found. In the meantime, the state has collected over $27,000 in snow removal fines, after issuing over 230 tickets to offending motorists.

In Pennsylvania, the fines assessed in cases of damage caused by snow or ice falling off of a vehicle can be costly. Chapter 37, Section 3720 of the Pennsylvania State Vehicle Code states:

When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $1,000 for each offense.

New Jersey is another state that not only levies a fine in the case of actual damage or injury occurring (anywhere from $200-$1000) but also fines drivers for neglecting to clear their cars, even before any damage or injury has occurred. The fines for such negligence range from $25-$75. The New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety notes that these fines are applicable “regardless of whether the ice and snow is dislodged from the vehicle.”

How many other states have laws that mandate snow or ice removal? Fox News reports that in addition to Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, five other states have also passed legislation regarding the mandatory clearing of ice and snow from cars. Some safety advocates in New York are beginning to wonder when these regulations will be implemented in their own state. With the growing awareness of the dangers of dislodged snow and ice, and the steady rise of states that have passed legislation on the issue, there is good reason to believe that New York may very well introduce similar legislation in the near future. Lives have already been lost in these senseless tragedies, and perhaps mandating snow and ice removal from cars can help save lives in the future.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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