Monday, February 6, 2012

Practice Clearing Snow and Ice off Your Car – Before it Costs You

In response to public pressure following the winter of 2010, when several accidents resulted from snow and ice flying off of commercial trucks and striking the cars following behind them, the Connecticut legislature passed a law in June 2010 making it a motor vehicle violation for drivers of passenger and commercial motor vehicles to operate their vehicles on the state’s roads and highways without first clearing off any accumulated snow and ice from the trunk, hood and roof.  Public Act No. 10-182.  If you fail to do so, and if the accumulated snow and ice pose a “threat” to other drivers, people or property, the police can pull you over and write you a $75 ticket.  The law does not indicate when accumulated snow and ice pose a “threat” – that decision appears to be left to the discretion of the police.  See subsection (a).  What the law does make clear, however, is that you do not have to stop driving during a snow or ice storm to clear the snow or ice off your car, so long as the snow or ice storm began after you were already driving. See subsection (c).
More significantly, if, after failing to clear off any accumulated snow and ice, you drive your passenger vehicle and the accumulated snow and ice then fly off your car and injure a person or damage property, you can be fined between $200 and $1000.  If you are the operator of a commercial vehicle, the fines range between $500 and $1200.  Partly in response to the commercial trucking industry’s concern over imposing fines on commercial vehicles, the Connecticut legislature elected to create a three year period before the law went into effect, currently set for December 31, 2013, so that owners and operators of commercial vehicles could implement procedures to clear snow and ice off of large vehicles, such as tractor trailers.  Moreover, the three year window provides regular motorists ample notice that driving with accumulated snow and ice is a violation subject to relatively significant fines and, therefore, motorists should get into the habit of completely clearing snow and ice off of their cars before driving.
Questions or Comments? Contact Jared Cantor.