Brush The Snow Off Your Car. It's The Law! Almost.
Last year at this time, the House failed to adopt SB 435, which attempted to accomplish a public safety measure related to the removal of ice from motor vehicles. Last month, the Senate voted unanimously to advance SB 114, a similar bill, which now moves to the Pennsylvania House for consideration.
Currently, Pennsylvania law (75 Pa. C.S.A. § 4524) requires that drivers must have a clear, unobstructed view of the road at all times while operating a motor vehicle. Snow, ice, and debris must be removed from all windows before driving.
Failure to comply with § 4524 is a primary offense, thus allowing law enforcement officers to initiate traffic stops for any violations. The fine for driving with an obstructed view is only $25, but with administrative and other fees, the final cost is more than $100 for a single violation.
Additional penalties exist if falling snow or ice from a moving vehicle causes serious injury or kills another party, as stated in 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3720:
“When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle from which the snow or ice is dislodged or falls shall be subject to a fine of not less than $ 200 nor more than $ 1,000 for each offense.”
This only involves the statutory fine. Any driver in a moving vehicle from which snow or ice dislodges and causes death or serious injury may also be sued for damages.
If passed, SB 114, would require all Pennsylvania drivers to make reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from a motor vehicle or motor carrier vehicle, including its hood, trunk, and roof, within 24 hours after snow or ice stops falling, presumably, as the result of a winter storm.
A driver of a motor vehicle or motor carrier vehicle who violates this law would be subject to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $75 for each offense regardless of whether any snow or ice is dislodged from the vehicle.
When snow or ice is dislodged or falls from a moving vehicle or motor carrier vehicle and strikes another vehicle or pedestrian causing death or serious bodily injury, the operator of the vehicle in violation is subject to a fine of not less than $200 nor more than $1,500 for each offense. This law would be known as Christine's Law in memory of Christine Lambert, who was killed on Christmas Day in 2005 when a block of ice flew off a truck and smashed through her windshield.
When traveling in snowy and icy conditions, it's wise to plan accordingly and have all the necessary tools like an ice scraper and snow brush in your car. Do not leave a vehicle unattended with the engine running to warm it up before you leave for your destination. It's a violation of the Pennsylvania vehicle code, unsafe, and a good way to have your car stolen.