States pursue snow-free vehicle mandates

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 3/18/2014

As winter struggles to release its grip on much of the United States, lawmakers in multiple states are discussing efforts to require car and truck drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association and countless truck drivers are opposed to rules that permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow and ice.

The issue of snow and ice removal is not a new topic in many states in the northeast U.S. Rhode Island has a rule in place to require vehicles to be kept clear of snow or ice. New Jersey also allows police to ticket drivers simply for having wintry precipitation atop their vehicles.

In Connecticut, a new rule in effect since the first of the year includes truckers with motorists in the requirement to clear hoods and roofs before getting out on the roads. According to reports, by early March the state had issued at least 230 tickets under the new law.

This year at statehouses that include New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont, concerned lawmakers continue to pursue stiff punishment for failure to keep vehicles clear of wintry precipitation.

Supporters say a snow and ice rule would make enforcement easier. Others say it creates a significant deterrent for not cleaning off a vehicle following a snow or ice storm.

“We hear time and again about accidents that occur as the result of snow or ice becoming dislodged from vehicles as they are traveling,” New York Assemblyman Charles Lavine, D-Glen Cove, said in a news release. “This is a commonsense law that has the potential to prevent accidents and save lives.”

Lavine is behind a bill that would include $75 fines simply for having snow or ice on vehicles. If injury or property damage results, motorists traveling through New York found in violation would face fines between $200 and $1,000. Truck drivers would face fines between $500 and $1,200.

In Vermont, a bill under review would include fines for truckers that start at $100 simply for having snow or ice on the truck or trailer. Anyone who is injured or has their property damaged from falling ice or snow could sue the driver at fault.

A Pennsylvania bill focuses only on trucks weighing at least 48,000 pounds.

State law already allows police to ticket violators between $200 and $1,000 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death. Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, is behind a bill that would boost the maximum fine to $1,200, as well as include an additional protection that would allow police to ticket drivers for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.

All three states would excuse drivers for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road.

Critics, including OOIDA, say that snow and ice rules are nearly impossible for truck drivers to comply with. They point out that facilities are not readily available in states to accommodate such mandates on trucks. Another problem is the practicality of requiring people to climb atop large vehicles, and doing it in less-than desirable conditions.

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