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Snow Ahead: Understanding Your Snow Removal Obligations

January 4, 2016 | Posted In Personal Injury/Negligence

When you’re driving after a particularly heavy snow, it’s always scary to see the car in front of you piled high with snow and/or ice on the roof and trunk. You already know that snow is going to blow back on you once the car starts moving, and any sudden stops or turns could send chunks of snow and ice into your vehicle. Snow-covered cars are not only dangerous for the drivers in them who may be forced to deal with reduced visibility, but they also pose a threat to the other cars on the road that may have to contend with debris or flying precipitation.

What Does the Law Say?

New Jersey motor vehicle statute 39:4-77.1 requires “each driver of a motor vehicle operated on a street or highway in the state shall have an affirmative duty to make all reasonable efforts to remove accumulated ice or snow from exposed surfaces of the motor vehicle prior to operation.” These surfaces include a car’s “hood, trunk, windshield, and roof…the cab of the truck, the top of a trailer or semitrailer being drawn by a motor vehicle, and the top of the intermodal freight container being carried by an intermodal chassis.”

Basically, every surface on a road-bound car, truck, semi or towed object needs to be cleared of snow and ice before the driver can hit the road. If you drive with snow or ice still on your car, the penalty ranges from a $25 to $75 fine, provided none of the accumulation flies off your car and hits another vehicle. However, if some of the snow or ice does fly off your car and causes property damage to another vehicle or injury to another driver, the fines range from $200 to $1,000 for motor vehicles. For trucks, tractor trailers and other commercial vehicles, the fines jump from $500 to $1,500.

Although most people are unaware that it is against the law to drive with snow on your car, clearing off snow and winter debris is typically a commonsense move. Drivers need to be able to see clearly when they’re on the road, and it’s hard to do that if your windows and windshields are blocked by snow or ice. Additionally, snow on the roof can fly forward onto the front windshield, cutting off the driver’s view of the road ahead or startling the driver into pumping the brakes or swerving suddenly to avoid a perceived obstacle. A person whose snow falls off and causes an accident can be held liable for causing the accident.  Such an incident can also result in criminal charges if someone is hurt.

Call an Attorney for Help

If you have been injured as a result of another driver’s failure to clear the snow and ice from his or her vehicle, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If your car suffered damage as a result, you may be able to receive an award to cover the cost of the damages and transportation while your vehicle is being repaired. For more information on driver responsibility in the winter weather, contact a New Jersey personal injury lawyer at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, today and receive a free, no-strings consultation.

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