Snow removal and de-icing vehicles, a hot topic in the Statehouses

As spring approaches, legislation in several states addresses winter driving issues related to snow and ice removal from car and truck roofs.

Rules regarding snow or ice accumulation on vehicles are already in place in states such as Alabama, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

Proponents say a snow and ice rule makes enforcement easier. Others say it creates a strong deterrent to cleaning a vehicle after a snow or ice storm.

Delaware

The state of Delaware is the closest to passing legislation requiring drivers to remove accumulated ice or snow before driving on the roads.

A flurry of activity earlier this year at the Statehouse paved the way for the bill to move up the House floor.

Within a week, Senate lawmakers voted to allow law enforcement to stop vehicles simply for not removing ice or snow from the tops of vehicles. Fines would be set at $25 to $75. Incidents that cause property damage or bodily injury could result in penalties ranging from $200 to $1,000 for motorists. Truckers could face fines ranging from $500 to $1,500.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee voted 5-2 soon after to move the bill to the full House. The law project, SB64since has not been raised for further consideration.

Sponsored by Sen. Bryan Townsend, D-Newark, the bill would limit citations to affected vehicles to once per 24-hour period. Drivers would be exempt when accumulations occur while the vehicle is in motion.

Townsend says people need to take the issue seriously.

“I would like it to be a proactive law. I would like people to take this seriously and clean the ice or snow from their vehicles before they move,” Townsend said during a Senate discussion.

He added that drivers should not leave it up to the police to ensure vehicles are cleared of buildups.

“We try to find the right balance.”

Pennsylvania

Across the state line in Pennsylvania, several bills would revise state rule on the matter.

State law allows police to fine car and truck drivers from $200 to $1,000 if winter rainfall causes serious injury or death.

Rep. Jeanne McNeill, D-Lehigh, introduced a bill Wednesday intended to be proactive on the issue of vehicle de-icing.

his bill, HB2418, is modeled on Senate legislation to allow law enforcement to issue tickets only for failing to clear snow and ice from their vehicles. In addition to trucks, transit vehicles, buses and school buses would be covered by the rule.

Drivers would be required to make ‘reasonable efforts’ to remove snow or ice from all parts of their vehicles within 24 hours of a weather event.

Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $1,500 if winter precipitation causes serious injury or death. The bill includes additional protection allowing police to fine drivers $50 for not clearing snow or ice before driving.

Truckers would be excused if they went to a facility to remove accumulated snow or ice. Additionally, no violation would be issued if compliance would cause the trucker to violate any federal or state law or regulation regarding workplace safety, or pose a threat to health or safety.

The application would be limited to highways.

McNeill says every driver in the state needs to do their part to keep the roads safe.

“It is essential that drivers clean snow and ice buildup from their vehicles before driving,” McNeill wrote in a memo attached to the bill. “When snow and ice blow away from a moving vehicle, whether it is a small passenger car or a large tractor-trailer, serious injuries can occur to the motorist, other drivers and pedestrians.”

The Senate version, SB114, passed in the Senate about a year ago. Sponsored by Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-Northampton, the bill was later advanced by the House Transportation Committee, but received no further review.

A provision of McNeill’s bill that is not included in Boscola’s bill covers truck inspections. Specifically, a police officer or trained employee of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation would be authorized to demand that a truck driver stop and submit to be weighed and checked for snow and ice accumulation.

Weighing can be done using portable or stationary scales.

HB2418 serves on the House Transportation Committee.

OIDA concern

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is concerned about rules that allow police to arrest drivers whose vehicles have not been cleared of snow or ice. They point out that facilities are not readily available to fulfill truck clearance warrants. Another problem is the practicality of the rules which seem to require people to get into large vehicles and do so in less than desirable conditions.

“The accumulation of snow and ice on any vehicle has the potential to negatively impact road safety,” said OOIDA Director of Government Affairs Mike Matousek. “However, when it comes to utility vehicles, there’s really no practical or safe way to remove it from the top of a trailer, especially during winter weather conditions.”

Speaking specifically about SB114, Matousek said “it’s far from a good bill”, but the legislation “seems to address some of the security issues that OOIDA and others have raised over the years”.

Elsewhere

Similar lawsuits previously undertaken in other state houses across the eastern United States have come to an end.

A Massachusetts The internal bill mentioned trucks for the removal of snow or ice from vehicles.

H3518 called to prohibit commercial vehicles from driving on roads with any accumulation of snow or ice on the roof of the vehicle.

A Vermont The bill was intended to create fines for driving before clearing any accumulation of snow or ice.

H674 specified clearance of “any trailer or semi-trailer, so far as is necessary to avoid a threat to persons or property caused by the dislodging of accumulated ice or snow or by obstructing the view of the operator” .

Operators would not be responsible for snow or ice that accumulates on a vehicle while it is on the road.

In Virginiaa bill required the removal of accumulations of snow or ice.

HB1183 enabled the police to arrest motorists and truckers who had not cleared their vehicles of snow and ice before setting off.

Drivers would be exempt from the requirement if precipitation accumulates while the vehicle is on the road. LL

More status trends

Keith Goble, state legislative editor for Land Line Media, tracks many trends among state houses across the United States. Here are some recent articles by him.

Jessica C. Bell