Mar 24, 2017 |

Clear that Vehicle: the Dangers of Ice Missiles

Mar 24, 2017 - Articles, Car Accidents, Commercial Vehicle Accidents, Truck Accidents, Wrongful Death

As Allentown car accident attorneys, following this most recent snow storm, we’ve been very cognizant of snow and ice flying off the back of moving vehicles. A dash-cam video shows how this dangerous this driving hazard can be. Seeing this, you too must have thought, “That should be illegal.” In some states, it is.

On Christmas Day, 2005, Christine Lambert and her family were traveling through Carbon County, 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, killing Christine. The police never identified the driver of the tractor-trailer.

In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, allowing ice and snow to remain on the external surfaces of your car, truck or tractor trailer, can always lead to civil liability for causing injury to another vehicle, operator or pedestrian, but whether the police can issue you a ticket for failing to remove accumulated ice or snow from exposed surfaces on your vehicle, differs between the two states.

In Pennsylvania, 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 something. This would be like only issuing a speeding ticket, if the operator actually caused an accident. It doesn’t prospectively curb dangerous behavior. 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 in 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.

Contact An Allentown Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, whether due to flying ice missiles or simply a negligent or inattentive driver, the personal injury attorneys at Drake, Hileman and Davis are here to help you. We have handled complex highway collisions and tractor-trailer accidents involving serious injury and death. Contact us at 1-888-777-7098, to set up a free initial consultation in order to gain a better understanding of your legal rights. There is never a fee unless we recover for you.

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