A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Keven Moore: Driving with snow and ice on top of your hood is dangerous and may be illegal


It’s January and once again it’s that time of the year in Kentucky when we are most at risk to receive a major snowfall for our region, and unlike our childhood, many of us don’t get the luxury of staying home on a snow day. 

For those less fortunate and don’t have the luxury of a garage for your vehicle, scraping the ice and snow off of your windshield is pretty much the last thing many of us want to do when it’s freezing outside, but it’s required by law.

Photos from Wikimedia

We all know that, or at least most of us know that we should all clear the frost or ice off of our windshields and all the other windows to be able to safely see on our journey to work. Otherwise, you will be driving with blind spots that could help contribute to an accident. 

But what about all that snow and ice on top of your hood or roof of your vehicle, is it illegal to drive with that on your car?  

In several states it is against the law; however, it is not illegal in the state of Kentucky. Nearly a dozen states have some variations of Ice Missile laws in place which requires drivers to remove ice and snow from their vehicles before driving out on the roads. 

In some of those states, if the snow and ice aren’t properly scraped off your windshield and windows you could get stopped and fined up to $1,000 in certain states, according to a USA Today article.

Regardless if it’s against the law or not, it is strongly advised that you take the time to remove the snow and ice from your vehicles to avoid those ice missiles from dislodging and striking nearby vehicles causing damage or even an accident. The fact is when you fail to remove snow and ice from your vehicle you are putting yourself and others at risk and cold weather is not a valid excuse.

Drivers in Kentucky can still be stopped and encouraged to remove any excess snow from their vehicle and reminded that it is a safety issue — not only for themselves but for other people driving on the road.

In Ohio, the law reads: “No person shall drive or move, or cause or knowingly permit to be driven or moved, on any highway any vehicle or combination of vehicles which is in such unsafe condition as to endanger any person.

By not clearing the ice and snow on top of your vehicle could create hazardous driving conditions for you or other motorists, and if that occurs and causes an accident or injury then you as the driver can and will find yourself liable in what state you find you are in at the time of the event.

Frozen slabs of snow and ice left on cars can create hazardous situations on the road, especially when you find yourself driving 50-70MPH. Ice missiles have been known to smash windshields, shatter glass and have been known to cause other drivers to lose control of their vehicles and causing several fatalities over the years according to an article in NPR. 

At any time of year — but particularly during the dark and potentially treacherous driving days of winter — it’s essential to keep your car windows clear. So build in the extra time to remove snow and ice from your car before you drive out onto the wintry roads.

Here are some additional helpful hints to keep you safe this winter:

How To Clear The Snow and Ice From Your Vehicle

• Before you tackle accumulations on the windows, check to see that the tailpipe is free of snow. Snow covering your tailpipe could lead to carbon monoxide buildup in your car.

• After that, turn on the car and run the front and back defroster. It may take several minutes to warm up the car and start the melting process.

• Clear snow off the vehicle’s roof before you start to clear the windows, and also brush the snow off the front hood and trunk before you while you wait for your windshield to melt. Skipping this step and big clumps of snow could blow off while you’re driving, obstructing your view or that of another driver.

• For fluffy snows, use a snow brush with plastic bristles or a broom to clear windows, followed by a light scrape with an ice scraper as needed.

• Heavy snows may require clearing snow with a push broom, but don’t use your snow shovel or you risk damaging your vehicle.

• Next, clear the side windows and rear windows. Clear your windshield last to give the defroster more time to start melting the ice.

• Don’t forget to clear your exterior mirrors, headlights, taillights, and turn signals.

• Your last steps: Clear off and dry your wiper blades and make sure your wiper fluid nozzles are clear.

• If your wipers are more than six months old or they’re not clearing the windows properly it’s time to have them replaced.
 
• If vehicles can be kept in a garage or under an overhang, it can reduce snow and ice buildup. If that is not available, covering the roof, windshield, and hood of the car with a snow blanket can allow for easy removal by pulling the blanket away from the vehicle.

Be Safe My Friend

Keven Moore works in risk management services. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, a master’s from Eastern Kentucky University and 25-plus years of experience in the safety and insurance profession. He is also an expert witness. He lives in Lexington with his family and works out of both Lexington and Northern Kentucky. Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.Keven can be reached at kmoore@roeding.com.


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