Days numbered on New Jersey bill mandating snow-free vehicles

| 11/30/2007

With a little more than one month remaining in the legislative session, time is running out for a bill in the New Jersey statehouse that would have the state get tough with drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. The rule would apply to commercial and non-commercial vehicles.

A similar effort is being pursued in Pennsylvania.

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

State law now prohibits any driver 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 $1,000.

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

Munoz said 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 a fine between $25 and $75. No points would be assessed against their driver’s licenses.

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 it is 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 their vehicles.

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, and the weather may be clear, but some drivers neglect to clean their vehicles and continue to create a hazard on the roads,” he said. “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 – S2640 – is awaiting initial consideration on the Senate floor. If approved there, it would move to the Assembly. All legislation must be approved by both chambers prior to the end of the regular session, which is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2008.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2007, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor