New Jersey Senate advances snow-free vehicles mandate

| 4/15/2008

A bill halfway through the New Jersey statehouse would have the state get tough with drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. The rule would apply to both commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

Similar efforts are being pursued in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania.

The New Jersey Senate voted 35-1 to advance a bill to the Assembly that would permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow and ice.

State law now prohibits car and truck drivers from being fined for driving a snow-capped vehicle. However, if a piece of ice falls from a vehicle and causes injury or property damage, car drivers face fines between $200 and $1,000, while truck drivers can be fined $500 to $1,500.

There were nearly 180 violations of that law during the past year, the Courier-Post reported.

Sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman Nicholas Sacco, D-North Bergen, the bill would make drivers responsible for making “all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from the motor vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof prior to operation.”

Violators would face fines between $25 and $75. No points would be assessed against the driver’s license.

Trucking industry officials in the state say the rule would be nearly impossible to comply with. They also cite concerns about requiring people to climb atop large vehicles to remove snow or ice.

Drivers would not be liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road. Advocates for the restriction say they don’t want to substitute one dangerous practice for another by requiring drivers to pull to the side of the road during a storm solely to clean their vehicles.

Sacco said the bill is intended to require that “all drivers must make every reasonable effort to remove accumulated ice or snow on the hood, trunk and roof of their vehicles.”

This is the third consecutive session legislation has been offered in New Jersey to tighten enforcement rules on ice and snow on vehicles. The previous efforts failed to advance from their originating chamber.

In hopes of appeasing the trucking industry this time around, Sacco amended the bill in committee to give trucks a year to comply with the rule. The full Senate later applied the extension to all vehicles.

The bill – S520 – is awaiting assignment to committee in the Assembly.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor