Yes, You Have to Clear the Snow and Ice off Your Car’s Roof

ice chunk smashes the windshield of a subaru legacy in new hampshire

New Hampshire State Police via Facebook

  • Throughout the cold months, injuries and accidents are commonplace from ice and snow coming off vehicles. A driver in New Hampshire was charged earlier this month with vehicular assault, among other charges, after a piece of ice came off his box truck and injured another driver.
  • A handful of states have laws requiring drivers to clear snow and ice off their entire vehicles before getting on the road.
  • Even in states without such a law, police can issue citations for offenses such as driving with an unsecured load.

    For those of us in northern states, the start of winter often means carving out some extra time in the mornings to scrape off the car windows. And while being able to see out of your car is an important part of that morning routine, unless you’re already doing it, it’s time that you start brushing the snow and ice off your roof and rest of your vehicle, too.

    Earlier this December, in New Hampshire, ice flew off the roof of a moving box truck and smashed the window of a following car, seriously injuring the driver. The driver of the box truck has been charged with vehicular assault, reckless conduct, and negligent driving, the Londonderry Police Department wrote on Facebook. In New Hampshire, it’s mandated by law to clear ice and snow from the roof of a vehicle, and a fine can result whether or not a driver causes harm to another driver.

    This is the case in at least five other states, including Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island, but even in states where the law doesn’t explicitly say that snow and ice need to be cleared off your entire vehicle, police officers have enforced such a rule. In Massachusetts, a state that doesn’t have a law about clearing off your vehicle, officers can cite drivers with driving with an unsecured load if they don’t scrape the snow and ice off their vehicle’s roof, according to MassLive. In other states such as Ohio, even when there isn’t such a law, if snow or ice comes off a vehicle and causes an injury or accident the driver can be liable.

    Barring a negative outcome, drivers who fail to clear the snow and ice off their vehicles can be given a small fine, regardless of the laws in place. But as is the case with the driver in New Hampshire, if other drivers are injured, the outcomes for a driver can be much worse.

    Ice and snow going through windshields is a fairly common occurrence in snowy states. Last winter in Michigan, ice came off a truck and smashed through the windshield of a school bus, injuring the bus driver and one student, according to WXYZ Detroit. In early 2019 in Wisconsin, a chunk of ice came off the roof of a truck and went through the windshield of a Buick sedan, causing minor injuries to the driver—and left a couple inches of snow under the rear windshield, according to Fox6. In both cases, it’s unclear whether the driver of the vehicle where the ice chunks came from was charged.

    Regardless, it’s unlikely that any of drivers who had ice come off their vehicles anticipated that happening—so next time snow blankets your car, carve out a little extra time to make sure your roof, hood, and any other area is clear.

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