There is always that one driver who fails to clear snow from the top of his or her car. These drivers pose an often-overlooked danger to other Pennsylvania road users. We often see chunks of snow or ice break off the roofs of their cars and fly through the air. In the best-case scenario, nobody is hit.
In the worst-case scenario, the snow or ice comes crashing down on someone's windshield on a high-speed roadway. That's what happened to a New Hampshire Department of Transportation worker in January 2019. Bill Taylor just completed the workday and was on his way home. A chunk of ice "the size of a shoebox" suddenly flew off the top of a semi-trailer. It smashed through his windshield and struck him in the head.
Taylor was rushed to a nearby hospital after another motorist called 911. He had a 3-inch gash on his forehead from being struck by the block of ice. He also had facial and hand injuries caused by shattered glass.
Can Pennsylvania drivers be penalized for failing to clean snow or ice off their cars?
Failing to clear snow or ice off a car is illegal in Pennsylvania. The current law only applies if someone is injured or killed as a result, however. The penalty is only a fine of no less than $200 and no greater than $1,000.
State lawmakers are pushing to strengthen the current law and make it mandatory for drivers to remove snow and ice from their cars. Senate Bill 114 was introduced on January 24, 2019, just after a passenger was seriously injured after a chunk of ice fell off the top of a semi-trailer and smashed through the windshield. The incident occurred on Interstate 80 in Smithfield Township January 22, 2019.
The bill would mandate that motorists and commercial truck drivers clear snow and ice off their vehicles within 24 hours after a winter weather storm. It would also allow police to pull over drivers who allow snow or ice to build up on their cars. Violators could face fines between $25 to $75, even if the snow or ice wasn't dislodged. A maximum fine of $1,500 could be imposed if someone was injured or killed by falling snow or ice.
The Senate unanimously approved the bill in October 2019. SB 114 was dubbed "Christine's Law," in honor of Christine Lambert who died about 14 years ago after she was struck by a chunk of ice that fell from another vehicle.
“Many times while driving on our roadways, we have all been the victim of falling snow and ice coming from other vehicles. This is not only extremely dangerous, but can also lead to injuries and fatalities,” said Senators Lisa Boscola and Daniel Laughlin wrote in a 2018 memo.
What should I do if I was injured by falling snow or ice?
Drivers who fail to clear snow and ice off their vehicles have no excuse. They should be held accountable when their negligence causes someone's injury or death. The Law Offices of Edward P. McNelis, based in Hazleton, can help you explore your legal options if you were hurt by falling snow or ice.
Attorney Edward McNelis has been helping injured motorists and their families for nearly four decades. When you're struck by snow or ice, he can help you strike back. Contact us online today to find out how.