Pennsylvania bill mandating snow-free vehicles dies; New Jersey bill still active

| 12/15/2006

A bill in Pennsylvania that called for truckers and other drivers to be fined for failure to clear snow and ice off their vehicles has died. A similar effort remains active in New Jersey.

Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, the measure remained in the Senate Transportation Committee when the session ended last month, effectively killing it for the year.

The bill - SB902 - would have permitted police to pull over drivers whose vehicles are not cleared of the wintry precipitation. Violators would have faced fines between $25 and $75.

Fines would have increased 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 have ranged from $200 to $1,000.

The rule would not have applied to snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while it is in motion.

The bill can be reintroduced during the new session that begins Jan. 2, 2007.

In New Jersey, a bill seeks the same protections for drivers in that state.

Sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Munoz, R-Westfield, the bill also 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.

Drivers would not be liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road. 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."

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 without needing to be reintroduced.