Saturday, February 08, 2014

Snow Law Update: Driving with Accumulated Snow

Some of us are still digging out from the two "snow days" earlier this week.  Have you ever wondered if anything could be done (legally, of course), about those drivers flying down the highway the day after a storm with mounds of snow still burying their hood, top, and most of the windows?  Drivers of cars and trucks who leave this snow and ice to dislodge and crash into other people's windshields, blocking visibility and causing distraction, damage, and sometimes personal injury? For an increasing number of states, the answer is yes--pass a law.

In New Jersey, for example, a Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation statute (39:4-77.1) imposes an affirmative duty "to make all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from exposed surfaces of the motor vehicle prior to operation."  If a law enforcement officer believes that the accumulation poses "a threat to persons or property," the driver may be stopped and incur a fine of between $25 and $75. If the dislodged snow or ice actually "strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing injury or property damage," fines increase to $200 to $1000 for cars, with higher penalties for commercial vehicles. In Connecticut, a law with very similar provisions went into effect on the last day of 2013.

What about New York?  Two bills have been introduced in both the New York Assembly and Senate during the current legislative session.  Assembly Bill 3687/Senate Bill 395 would impose steeper fines than either New Jersey or Connecticut for operating such a vehicle on a "public street or highway" more than three hours after the "snow, sleet or hail" stopped falling.  Assembly Bill 4680/Senate Bill 841 has similar provisions, with increased penalties for causing physical injury or property damage. The text of both bills can be read at the New York State Legislature's public information site.  

Ernster, the Virtual Library Cat

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