Late winter snow is always a hassle. No one wants to go outside on a cold winter morning and clear the snow and ice from their windshield, windows, and mirrors. It is so much more efficient to warm the car up, hit the road and let gravity do the work, right? WRONG. I only need to clean off my windshield, right? WRONG. I don’t need to brush off the roof, right? WRONG. Avoidable automobile crashes in Chicago happen sometimes due to decreased visibility as a result of obstructions from the elements.
Illinois law states that “No person shall drive a motor vehicle with snow, ice, moisture or other material on any of the windows or mirrors, which materially obstructs the driver’s clear view of the highway.” 625 ILCS 5/12-503(d).
Driving with your windshield, windows or mirror obstructed by snow is not just illegal, it is dangerous. Most vehicles perform far worse in winter conditions in the key areas of stopping distance and handling. In slippery winter conditions drivers must begin braking much earlier and make slower more controlled turns, both of these practices require even greater awareness and visibility than in dry conditions. Beyond the performance of their own vehicles, drivers must also be on the lookout for other drivers. How often have we all seen vehicles slide all the way through an intersection in an ice storm, despite having their foot planted on the brake? How often have we seen vehicles attempt to make turns, but just slide forward?
Given that the need for visibility is increased by winter weather, drivers cruising around with less visibility than normal is a recipe for disaster.
How clean must the vehicle be? The law does not specify how clean the vehicle must be, what is critical is that visibility is not obstructed, and that debris will not fly off the vehicle.
Even if your visibility is unobstructed, excessive snow and ice accumulation on your vehicle can be a hazard. Ice and snow can become dangerous projectiles flying off cars at high speeds, potentially injuring pedestrians, property, and other motorists.
All motorists in Illinois have a duty to protect others on the road. This duty extends to making sure that vehicles do not have piles of snow and ice on them in the winter. Motorists who are lax about removing snow and ice from the roofs of their vehicles endanger surrounding motorists and pedestrians.
We have all seen chunks of debris fly off the roofs of trucks in the winter. We have all seen snow slabs fly off of the cars of careless drivers. These frozen projectiles startle nearby motorists causing them to swerve and possibly crash. The damage that flying chunks of ice can cause is enormous. Often the drivers of these vehicles are unaware of the chaos they bring to their fellow motorists. These kinds of winter accidents happen all of the time in Illinois, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Motorists driving vehicles improperly cleared of snow or ice could be found at fault for the damage they cause. This will be either due to their decreased visibility or the chunks of snow that fly off. Drivers who cause an accident can be sued if they didn’t bother to properly clean off their vehicle in winter weather.
One tip to help reduce ice formation during snowy weather is to cool the car off before you park. Ice often forms when snow lands on a hot car, melts and then freezes. Cooling off your vehicle before parking could be the difference between a morning spent scraping ice from windows and gently brushing off fluffy snow.
Here at Zneimer & Zneimer we urge all motorists to bundle up and take the time to clean off their vehicles.