Bills in three states cover vehicle snow and ice removal
March 18, 2021
As the first day of spring approaches, legislative chambers in multiple statehouses are taking action to address concerns about snow and ice removal from atop cars and trucks.
Rules covering concerns about accumulations atop vehicles are already in place in states that include Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.
Supporters say a snow and ice rule makes enforcement easier. Others say it creates a significant deterrent for not cleaning off a vehicle following a snow or ice storm.
A renewed pursuit in the Pennsylvania General Assembly would revise the state’s rule on the issue.
State law allows police to ticket car and truck drivers for fines of $200 to $1,000 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death.
The Senate Transportation Committee has voted unanimously to advance a bill that is intended to be proactive on the issue of ice removal from vehicles.
Specifically, SB114 would authorize law enforcement to issue tickets solely for failure to clear their vehicles of snow and ice. In addition to trucks, mass transit vehicles, buses, and school buses would be covered by the rule.
Enforcement would be limited to highways.
Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, is again behind the pursuit. She has called for a rule change since a 2005 incident that killed Christine Lambert of Palmer Township, Pa., when a piece of ice dislodged from a box truck and crashed through her vehicle’s windshield.
For years, Boscola has pursued the change at the statehouse. She says her bill is about safety and responsibility.
“Hopefully, Christine’s Law will increase public awareness and make people more vigilant about clearing snow and ice from their vehicles,” Boscola said in prepared remarks.
Drivers would be required to make “reasonable efforts” to remove snow or ice from all parts of their vehicles within 24 hours of a weather event.
Offenders would face a maximum fine of $1,500 if the wintry precipitation causes serious injury or death. The bill includes an additional protection allowing police to ticket drivers $50 for failure to clear snow or ice before they take to the roads.
Truck operators would be excused if they are on their way to a facility to remove accumulated snow or ice. In addition, violations would not be issued if compliance would cause the trucker to violate any federal or state law or regulation regarding workplace safety or if it would be a health or safety threat.
The bill awaits further consideration on the Senate floor.
OOIDA sees progress on issue
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has concerns about rules that allow police to pull over drivers whose vehicles were not cleared of snow or ice. They point out that facilities are not readily available to accommodate clearance mandates on trucks. Another problem is the practicality of rules that appear to require people to climb on top of large vehicles and do so in less-than-desirable conditions.
“The accumulation of snow and ice on any vehicle has the potential to negatively impact highway safety,” OOIDA Manager of Government Affairs Mike Matousek has said. “However, when it comes to commercial motor vehicles, there’s really no practical or safe way of removing it from the top of a trailer, especially during winter weather conditions.”
Speaking specifically about SB114, Matousek has said “it’s far from a great bill,” but the legislation does “appear to address some of the safety issues that OOIDA and others have raised through the years.”
In neighboring Delaware, a bill unanimously approved by the Senate Transportation Committee would set fines between $25 and $75 for failure to remove snow or ice. Incidents that cause property damage or physical injury would result in fines of $200 to $1,000 for motorists. Truck drivers would face fines of $500 to $1,500.
The bill would limit citations to affected vehicles to once per 24-hour period. Drivers would be exempt for accumulations while the vehicle is in operation.
The bill, SB64, can next be considered on the Senate floor.
An effort is also underway in Maine to address the safety issue.
The proposal, LR2006, would require drivers to clear all snow and ice off their vehicle.
The Maine Legislative Council is reviewing the proposal for consideration in the Legislature. Rep. Dustin White, R-Mars Hill, will lead the charge at the statehouse.
In 2019, a Maine bill sought to prohibit the operation of vehicles traveling at least 40 mph with “solid precipitation” on the vehicle.
Motorists found in violation would face fines starting at $250. Commercial drivers were exempt from the provision. LL
More state trends
Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, keeps track of many trends among statehouses across the U.S. Here are some recent articles by him.