Tougher snow-free vehicle rule sidetracked in Pennsylvania

| 12/26/2007

The Pennsylvania Senate recently wrapped up its work for the year without approving a bill that is intended to encourage drivers to clear snow and ice off their vehicles. However, it isn’t a dead issue.

State law enacted in 2006 allows police to ticket violators if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death. The fines range from $200 to $1,000. That bill’s passage was spurred by the death of a woman resulting from ice that fell from a tractor-trailer and crashed through her vehicle’s windshield.

The new measure – SB651 – remained in the Senate Transportation Committee when lawmakers started wrapping up the 2007 regular session. It can be brought back for consideration there during the session that begins Jan. 1.

Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, said current law is a good first step but it doesn’t go far enough. She is calling for the passage of a bill that would allow police to ticket drivers for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads. Violators would face fines ranging from $25 to $75.

The bill also would increase the maximum fine for commercial and non-commercial drivers in violation of existing law to $1,500.

A similar rule is sought in New Jersey.

Boscola’s bill would make drivers responsible for making “all reasonable efforts to remove all accumulated ice or snow from the motor vehicle, including the hood, trunk and roof.”

Trucking industry officials in the state say that although they support existing rules, the latest proposal would be nearly impossible to comply with. They also cite concerns about requiring people to climb atop large vehicles to remove snow or ice.

Supporters say that even though cleaning tops of vehicles might be inconvenient, not doing it presents a significant danger.

In addition, the bill would not hold drivers liable for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while out on the road. Boscola said she doesn’t want to require drivers to make repeated stops during a storm to comply.

After the first of the year, the bill can be brought back for consideration in the Senate.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor