The winter months can be brutal—especially in New England where it can seem like winter lasts for a year. With these harsh conditions, we have to be careful not to slip and fall or skid into a snow bank on black ice. But one major safety factor that gets over looked from time to time is clearing snow and ice completely from your vehicle. It happens all too often that someone on the road will be driving with a roof full of snow, when suddenly a large chunk will break free and fly into the windshield behind them. Not only can this cause damage to the car behind them, but it creates a dangerous situation for those nearby. It is a startling experience that can cause the driver to swerve, and possibly cause a horrible accident.
Although there is no Massachusetts legislation that forbids drivers to operate their vehicles with snow and ice built up on the roof, a driver can incur citations and fines for impeded operation of a vehicle. Fines for these violations range from $35-$150, depending on the offense.
Additionally, there can be civil liability if neglected snow and ice causes an accident where someone is injured or even killed. In this event, regardless of whether a citation was issued, a jury would likely find a defendant guilty of negligence, or even recklessness.
In the wake of deaths caused by excess snow and ice buildup on vehicles, states such as Pennsylvania and New Hampshire created laws requiring drivers to clear their vehicles of snow and ice prior to entering the roadways. In New Hampshire drivers may incur fines up to$1,000, as well as possible criminal charges, for incidents where injury or property damage occurs. New Jersey’s snow and ice removal law distributes fines on two scales. Fines range from $25-$75 for innocuous violations, and from $200-$1,000 for violations than cause injury or property damage. In most states with snow and ice removal laws, commercial drivers face higher fine amounts. Although vehicular snow and ice removal legislation has been introduced in Massachusetts on several occasions, which provides for fines of up to $500 for violations causing injury or property damage, the bills have not gained enough traction to become laws.
Cleaning your vehicle off thoroughly is an important safety tip for the winter, especially in New England. Do not skip the roof just because it may be a tedious task. Although you may not be bothered by the snow and ice on your vehicle, think about the people driving behind you and the devastation it could cause. You can save time, money, and lives by taking a few extra minutes to clear off that roof.