Legal Liability For Not Cleaning Snow Off Your Car?

January 22, 2024
Jonathan J. Russell

As personal injury attorneys,  this most recent snow storm, reminds us again of the dangers of snow and ice flying off the back of moving vehicles.  The dash-cam video below shows how this dangerous this driving hazard can be.


Watching this video, you too must have thought, “That should be illegal.”    In some states, it is.   Sadly on Christmas Day, 2005, Christine Lambert and her family were traveling through Pennsylvania, to visit relatives, when an eight-inch chunk of ice flew off the roof of a tractor-trailer. The flying ice chuck broke through the windshield of the Lamberts’ sport utility vehicle and killed Christine.

As a result of Christine Lambert’s death, legislation was passed to add criminal consequences to this behavior. See, 75 Pa.C.S. § 3720   Unfortunately, it only applies if the flying snow or ice actually injures someone or damages your vehicle. This is essentially the equivalent of only receiving a speeding ticket, if you caused an car accident.    It doesn’t prospectively curb the dangerous behavior before someone gets hurt. While this failure to remove ice and snow from the roof, trunk, hood, and windshield continues to be repeated following each snow storm, in Pennsylvania, there does not seem to be the “legislative will” to enact legislation that would require the removal of snow and ice from a vehicle before an accident occurs.

Some members of the trucking industry consider the act of clearing ice and snow from the tops of trailers too difficult and unsafe. Their position is that if states want laws mandating that snow and ice be cleared, the state should provide equipment at truck stops, rest areas or weigh stations that are able to sweep the ice and snow from the tops of their vehicles. Unfortunately, as noted in a recent AAA publication, over half (54%) of tractor-trailer drivers surveyed in the United States and Canada stated “they ‘rarely or never’ remove accumulated snow and ice from their vehicles . . . yet 35% of those drivers surveyed reported an experience of snow or ice causing injury or property damage to another motorist.”

Unlike Pennsylvania, in New Jersey, all drivers are required to remove accumulations of snow and ice from the external surfaces their vehicle before taking their vehicle out on the road, even if an accident is not caused by this failure and even if the snow or ice has not yet dislodged from the vehicle. See, N.J. Stat. § 39:4-77.1 So if your commute takes you from Pennsylvania through or into New Jersey, you need to be aware of this distinction. Not only can drivers in New Jersey be pulled over and fined for the failure to clear snow and ice from their vehicle, the fines and penalties increase, if this failure causes death or serious bodily injury.

Since 1985, the personal injury attorneys at Drake, Hileman & Davis, have been concerned for the safety of those in our community. Safety is no accident. We have a proven track record of results and satisfied clients. We’re ready to answer your questions and provide you with the legal help you need, when accidents happen. Contact us on-line or call us at (888) 777-7098 to schedule your free consultation in the convenience of your home or at one of our five offices located throughout the region.