This record-setting New England winter has brought about many headaches to daily drivers, and plenty of important issues for Massachusetts personal injury attorneys to talk about. Drivers must navigate through snow and ice covered roads and meticulously around potholes that can all but swallow the front end of a vehicle; they must deal with the reduction in the number of navigable travel lanes (and therefore an increase in commuting time); and they must be aware of snow banks so high that it is nearly impossible to see pedestrians until they suddenly emerge onto the roadway (hopefully in a crosswalk). However, one hazard can be avoided if everyone does their part. It is important to clean all of the snow and ice off of your vehicle before going out onto the roadways. The consequences of failing to do so can be serious, or even deadly, as the Massachusetts State Police pointed out well before the onslaught of weekly winter storms began.
Although several bills specifically prohibiting the operation of motor vehicles with an accumulation of snow and ice have stalled in the Massachusetts Legislature (most pertaining to commercial vehicles), a driver who fails to properly clean his or her vehicle may be cited and fined under the impeded operation statute. Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 90, §13 provides that “No person, when operating a motor vehicle, shall permit to be on or in the vehicle or on or about his person anything which may interfere with or impede the proper operation of the vehicle or any equipment by which the vehicle is operator or controlled.” Violations carry no criminal penalties, but fines start at $50 and increase with each offense. A driver may also face civil liability for failing to clean the snow and ice from his or her vehicle, if the snow or ice accumulation causes an accident which injures or kills someone.
Several states have enacted laws specifically prohibiting people from driving a vehicle with more than a small amount of snow or ice accumulation, including Connecticut General Statutes §14-252a, which imposes a $75.00 fine. Pennsylvania and New Hampshire each enacted laws following deaths caused by snow and ice accumulation on vehicles. Both laws impose fines of up to $1,000 for violations which cause injury or property damage to another. New Jersey’s snow and ice removal law, enacted in 2010, imposes fines of $25.00-$75.00 for benign violations, and $200-$1,000 fines for violations resulting in injury or property damage. Commercial vehicle drivers face higher fines.
As the snow and ice continue to pile up, make certain that you thoroughly clean all of the snow and ice from your vehicle before getting on the road. While getting up a bit earlier may be a burden, you will have peace of mind in knowing that your vehicle is safe to be on the road. For additional information on issues affecting Massachusetts drivers, please visit SUGARMAN’s blog. If you are injured by a driver’s failure to remove snow and ice from a vehicle prior to entering a public way, you may be entitled to compensation. SUGARMAN has experience in cases like this and can help. Please fill out a Contact Form, call us at (617) 542-1000 or e-mail email@example.com.