Is it Illegal to Drive with Snow and Ice on the Roof of a Car in Pennsylvania or New Jersey?

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As we enter into November and Thanksgiving and the winter holidays approach, drivers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the northeast must meet the difficulties and challenges winter weather presents. The need to deal with accumulations of ice and snow is a fundamental and universal problem for drivers during the late-fall and winter months. While many drivers are probably most concerned with patches of snow and ice on the roadway or highway, ice and snow that accumulates on vehicles are often of equal concern.  

Many potential clients who come into our offices often have questions regarding whether the law requires them to remove snow and ice from their car, truck, van or another vehicle. A Philadelphia car accident lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm believes that all drivers should always clear snow and ice from their vehicles, whether the law requires this action is dependent on whether one is driving in Pennsylvania or in New Jersey.

How Can Accumulations of Ice and Snow on Vehicles Affect Highway Safety?

Before delving into the state of the law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it is an indisputable fact that accumulations of snow and ice on vehicles can have profound impacts on highway and roadway safety. To start, drivers who fail to clear ice and snow frequently leave ice and snow on windshields, mirrors, and the driver- or passenger-side windows. The presence of frozen precipitation on windows often obstructs visibility and may increase the likelihood of collisions with smaller, less conspicuous vehicles such as motorcycles.

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However, the more high-profile and often catastrophic risk presented by accumulations of ice and snow on vehicles is the snow and ice flying off of the rooftop and acting as a missile. Snow and ice that flies off a roof of a vehicle and strikes another car and truck can cause serious damage in its own right. However, even when the snow and ice do not smash through and shatter a windshield, the impact can cause a driver to lose control of his or her vehicle. This can cause single vehicle or multi-vehicle crashes.

Of course, this risk increases substantially as the accumulations of ice and snow increase. Thus, the vehicles that typically present the greatest risk of projectile snow and ice injuries are 18-wheelers, dump trucks, and other vehicles with large flat surfaces. When drivers fail to clean snow and ice from big rigs, a veritable avalanche of snow and ice can strike trailing vehicles.

Pennsylvania Law Prohibits Accumulations of Snow and Ice on Vehicles only after a Serious Bodily Injury Has Occurred

Pennsylvania law takes a somewhat contradictory approach towards the accidents and injuries that may be caused by ice and snow that falls from the roof of a vehicle. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania state law does not create an absolute duty to remove all snow and ice before driving as a matter of statutory law. However, this is not for a lack of trying. Bills to require the removal of snow and ice from cars and trucks prior to the operation are frequently introduced, however, none have garnered the necessary support to change the law in the state.

However, under the current law, a driver can only face a fine or penalty when projectile snow or ice from a vehicle results in the death or “serious bodily injury” of another driver. Thus, a driver will only know after a serious injury has already occurred that their failure to clear snow and ice was illegal. Furthermore, the failure to remove snow and ice from a vehicle that resulted in a serious injury is almost certainly negligence and may be considered negligence per se under PA law. In other words, even though the law does not explicitly require it, drivers still owe a duty to act reasonably. Since one cannot know whether this particular failure will potentially create legal liability, it is prudent to clear ice and snow before it can cause a serious accident.

New Jersey Law Requires the removal of Snow and Ice before the Vehicle Can be Driven

The state of the law differs in neighboring New Jersey. Since drivers may cross from Pennsylvania into New Jersey and back again, it is wise to be aware of the duties the laws of New Jersey place on drivers. New Jersey law requires all drivers to remove accumulations of snow and ice from the vehicle roof, hood, or trunk before driving. Drivers can be pulled over and fined for a failure to take this action. Fines and penalties increase if the failure to clear snow and ice results in a serious bodily injury or death. Furthermore, like in Pennsylvania, the failure to clear snow and ice from a car or truck may serve as the basis of a negligence suit against the party responsible for causing the injury.

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Get a Philadelphia Car Accident Attorney If You Were Injured by a Driver Who Failed to Clean Ice or Snow from their Vehicle

If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries in a car accident caused by projectile ice or snow, a Northeast Philadelphia personal injury lawyer of The Reiff Law Firm may be able to fight for you. For more than three and a half decades, our lawyers have stood up for personal injury victims and held careless and negligent individuals financially accountable for their actions. To schedule a free and confidential initial consultation, please call our Philadelphia law firm at (215) 246-9000.

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