New Jersey, Pennsylvania bills would mandate snow-free vehicles

| 10/26/2006

With less than three months remaining in New Jersey's legislative session, a bill that still could come up for consideration calls for drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles to be fined. The rule would apply to both commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Munoz, R-Westfield, the bill would permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles are not cleared of snow and ice.

Drivers would be 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," Munoz wrote.

Violators would face a fine between $25 and $75. No points would be assessed against the driver's licenses of violators.

The provision would not apply to snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while it is in motion. Munoz said he doesn'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 the vehicle.

He said his intent is "to target drivers who fail to clean their cars, vans or trucks before heading out following a storm.

"Road conditions may be improved, the weather may be clear but some drivers neglect to clean their vehicles and continue to create a hazard on the roads. At the least, snow or ice falling from a vehicle may impair visibility for other drivers or result in a shattered windshield; at the worst, these avoidable conditions may take a life," Munoz wrote.

The bill - A959 - is in the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn in January 2007. Any bill that doesn't gain approval in both chambers prior to the end of the session can be brought back for consideration next year.

New Jersey isn't alone in its pursuit of snow-free vehicles.

In Pennsylvania, a bill seeks the same protections for drivers in the state.

Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, the measure calls for violators to face a fine between $25 and $75.

The fines would increase to between $500 and $1,500 for large trucks if a build-up led to an injury or property damage. For cars that caused damage or injury, the fine would range from $200 to $1,000.

The bill - SB902 - is in the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Pennsylvania General Assembly is scheduled to wrap up their work for the year by Nov. 30. Any bill that hasn't been approved by lawmakers at that time would have to be re-introduced when the new session starts up in January.

- By Keith Goble, state legislative editor