Following up on my previous post on this topic, not only is not clearing one’s vehicle of ice and snow before your drive foolish, inconsiderate, and potentially deadly, in Massachusetts it’s illegal. Not because our myopic legislators have had the motivation to enact a specific stature mandating removal of snow & ice from the hoods, roofs and trunk lids of their vehicles (that would be too sensible, after all.) It’s illegal due to a handful of other motor vehicle operation statutes – and police departments across the state have shown they are very willing to cite drivers for violations of those statutes, which are as follows:
- M.G.L. Chapter 90, Sec. 13, which addresses safety precautions for proper operation and parking of vehicles. This law prohibits anything on or in a vehicle that interferes with proper operation of the vehicle. And yes, snow and/or ice on car’s surfaces – especially the roof and hood – meets this definition.
- M.G.L. Chapter 85, Section 36, addressing unsecured vehicle loads. Violation of this statute imposes fines of up to $200 – and if an accident were part of the vehicle stop and a driver was cited with this violation, that citation will put the driver cited at a serious disadvantage in any civil liability case that followed as a result of any Massachusetts motor vehicle accident.
The above two statutes impose civil fines, but police can also issue criminal charges, as follows:
- M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 23, which governs obscured license plates, could be used to arrest and incarcerate a driver following an accident involving flying ice and snow.
- M.G.L. Chapter 90, Section 24, which provided criminal punishment for “Driving To Endanger”. Upon conviction, maximum penalty can carry up to two years incarceration, and/or a $200.00 fine. Defendants convicted of this offense, where serious bodily injury resulted to a victim, can expect to face the high prospect of jail time. Aside from this criminal penalty, a criminal conviction on reckless or negligent driving charges is a near guarantee of civil liability, which depending on the injuries involved, can bring major financial consequences.
As a Massachusetts car accident lawyer, I see these types of accidents all too often. I hope this post reminds all Massachusetts drivers to take the time to clear snow & ice off their vehicles, before they leave their driveway. We all have enough to worry about when driving in this awful winter weather, without having the unnecessary anxiety of never knowing if a flying avalanche will come crashing down and cause yet another Massachusetts car accident.
Use your head, as well as your hands, to clear snow & ice off your car. Or get ready to pay a potentially very high price if you don’t. If you’ve been injured due to snow or ice striking your vehicle after detaching from another vehicle, contact us and we’d be glad to outline your legal options.
2/1/19: P.S.: To illustrate just how potentially lethal this problem is, click here to see a news story of how someone in Massachusetts was almost killed earlier today by a large chunk of ice & snow slamming into and smashing through his windshield.