Leaving Snow on Your Car | What Is the Law?

snowbaltimore-300x141It is not explicitly illegal, but it is recommended by all jurisdictions that you should clear snow off your car. The driver’s manuals in Maryland and Virginia both include snow removal.

Is there a Maryland law that says that you should not be able to have snow on your car so it does not come flying off and blind me?   Sort of.  Transportation Code §21-1104 states that a person may not drive a vehicle if obstructs the driver’s view of the front or sides of the vehicle. They may not drive a vehicle if it interferes with the control of the driver’s. However, the law would likely have a broad application in cases involving snow on top of cars. But no one is going to pull you over for having too much snow on your case.

About a decade ago, the D.C. city council approved legislation that required drivers to remove snow and ice from their vehicles. However, the law never became permanent.

Proposal in Maryland

Around 2016, Maryland Senator Thomas M. Middleton from Southern Maryland proposed legislation would impose small fines for motorists who fail to clear snow from their cars. Senator Middleton had support from the state’s property and casualty insurers, AAA, and commercial truckers. However, the proposed legislation never got a vote. Lawmakers questioned how drivers of large vehicles such as SUVs or minivans can clear off their roofs. This is unfortunate that this proposal never became law, as it can make motorists in Maryland think twice about leaving snow on their car.

Laws in other states

Other states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, and New Jersey, have laws making it illegal to leave snow in your car if it endangers other drivers. As Northern states, they experience driving in snowy conditions quite frequently, which is why they each have laws that require drivers to remove snow from their cars.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, you may face penalties for failing to remove snow. The law requires drivers to have an unobstructed view of the road. Snow and debris has to be removed from all windows before driving. There are also fines imposed if snow or ice falls from a vehicle and hits another and causing death or serious injury. This legislation was passed shortly after Christine Lambert, a 51 year old Pennsylvania woman, died after a large chunk of ice from a trash truck struck her vehicle on Christmas Day 2005.

In the Pennsylvania legislature, there has been a proposal to impose fines on drivers who fail to clean snow or ice from their vehicles. The proposed bill, Senate Bill 435, is known as “Christine’s Law.” The Pennsylvania Senate has passed it, but the House has yet to debate over the proposed legislation.

Michigan

Michigan also requires drivers to remove snow from their car. Drivers are not allowed to operate their vehicle if the snow impairs their vision, obstructs their rear window, or impairs the brightness of their car lights. The law states that cars cannot deposit snow, ice, or slush onto the roadway.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire has laws on its books that require motorists to remove snow and ice on their cars. In 2002, the New Hampshire legislature passed Jessica’s Law, which essentially made it a fine to leave snow on your car. It was named after Jessica Smith, a 20-year-old woman who was killed as a result of ice from a trailer striking a car, which in turn hit her car. The law itself does not include the words “snow” or “ice,” but it does state that anyone driving in a negligent manner that may endanger others may be subject to a fine. They would be fined between $250 and $500 for their first offense, $500 and $1,000 after the second and subsequent ones.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, one must remove snow and ice from their vehicle before driving. Failure to do this may lead to fines between $25 and $75 per offense. This can still happen even if ice or snow did not fall from the car. Motorists face fines between $200 and $1,000 for each offense if ice or snow from their car causes property damage.

Illegal or not illegal, please remove snow from your car anyway for my own sanity

 You should remove snow from the roof of your car not because it is illegal, but because it is dangerous for you and everyone else on the road. It is simply common sense to just remove snow from your car. It is not worth it to save five minutes of your life that you could have spent clearing snow from your car. Snow from your car can take as little as a few seconds just to kill someone on the road.