New Jersey bill mandating snow-free vehicles advances

| 2/7/2008

A New Jersey Senate panel has approved a bill 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.

Similar efforts are being pursued in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania.

The Senate Transportation Committee voted to release a bill to the full Senate that would permit police to pull over drivers whose vehicles are not cleared of snow and ice.

State law now prohibits car and truck drivers 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 could be fined $500 to $1,500.

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

Sponsored by Senate Transportation Chairman Nicholas Sacco, D-North Bergen, the bill – S520 – 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 fines between $25 and $75. No points would be assessed against the driver’s license.

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 out on the road. Advocates for the restriction say they don’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.

Sacco said the bill is intended to require that “all drivers must make every reasonable effort to remove accumulated ice or snow on the hood, trunk and roof of their vehicles.”

This is the third session in a row legislation has been offered in New Jersey to tighten enforcement rules on ice and snow on vehicles. The previous efforts failed to advance from their originating chamber.

In hopes of appeasing the trucking industry this time around, Sacco amended the bill in committee to give trucks a year to comply with the rule.

To view other legislative activities of interest for New Jersey in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor